Neeson to get freedom of Ballymena

Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 00:00

Actor Liam Neeson is to be given the freedom of his home town during a ceremony in Co Antrim later today.

The star of Schindler’s List and Michael Collins will be honoured in Ballymena.

Neeson began his career in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre and later joined the Abbey Theatre in Dublin before moving to London, then Hollywood.

He was spotted by film director John Boorman while at the Abbey, subsequently appearing in Boorman’s film Excalibur in 1981.

This is the second time Neeson has been offered the freedom of the borough after refusing the council’s recognition in 2000 amid controversy over his alleged derogatory remarks.

He was quoted as saying in an American magazine that he felt “second class” as a Catholic growing up in the mainly Protestant town and felt he had to stay indoors during the loyalist July 12th commemorations of the Battle of the Boyne.

Only three people have been awarded the freedom of Ballymena: Ian Paisley, Dr Syd Millar and Sandy Spence.

Neeson was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a German businessman who prevented many Jews from being sent to Nazi death camps in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.

Another of his most prominent roles was his portrayal of Irish rebel leader Michael Collins in the film of the same name.

His other work includes parts in The Mission, Suspect and Rob Roy.

Neeson was married to actress Natasha Richardson, who died in 2009 after suffering a serious head injury while skiing in Canada. He was awarded the OBE in 2000, and now lives in New York.

Before taking to the stage he was a boxer and a forklift truck driver.


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