Liam Neeson’s new action movie Memory is out, and while it seems the film won’t be that, uh, memorable, Neeson’s career as an action star won’t be forgotten any time soon. Who would have thought? This is the guy who went from period and historical dramas like The Bounty, The Mission, and Schindler’s List to making movies like Love, Actually, and Kinsey. Sure, he had some action roles in the ‘90s — starring in Sam Raimi’s Darkman and that movie about some star being a menace or something — but nothing that outright screamed, “Let’s all cast this guy as the next Bruce Willis, only taller!” 

Many people will say all of that changed with his performance in Taken:

After Taken, Neeson starred in a string of action movies, including The A-Team, The Grey, Unknown, and that post-9/11 revenge thriller with the cartoon logic, Non-Stop. And the actor hasn’t stopped since, leading at least one big action movie a year, most often of the thriller variety. You may think the guy simply awakened his inner action hero by taking some action and sharing his take on the blockbuster genre. It sure took him long enough (fine, we’ll stop). But one very significant thing happened parallel to Neeson’s action star awakening: His wife, Natasha Richardson, passed away following a terrible skiing accident.

Taken came out only two months before Richardson’s passing, and Neeson said that he only did the action film that spawned a thousand “I will find you” memes because he thought it’d be fun, and he was also sure it would go straight to DVD. Of course, it didn’t, and after his wife’s passing, he threw himself into his work, with pretty much every film studio wanting him as their new action leading man.

Just days after Richardson’s death, Neeson started working again. As he explained to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes: “I'm not good without work. I just didn't want to, especially for my boys, to seem to be wallowing in sadness or depression.”

In 2011, he told Esquire: “I think I survived by running away some. Running away to work. Listen, I know how old I am and that I'm just a shoulder injury from losing roles like the one in Taken. So I stay with the training, I stay with the work. It's easy enough to plan jobs, to plan a lot of work. That's effective. But that's the weird thing about grief. You can't prepare for it. You think you're gonna cry and get it over with. You make those plans, but they never work.”

If this is all brand new information to you, then good luck watching The Grey again — a movie where he literally plays a man who (spoiler, we guess) struggles to deal with the death of his wife.

They’re right, you know. Sometimes, acting is therapy. And sometimes it’s just a thing to keep you busy so you don’t fall into that godawful pit of depression. 

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