He's no stranger to film premieres. But Hollywood A-lister Liam Neeson will settle into his seat for a very different movie screening in the coming days.
Pupils from his old school in Ballymena, along with students from a nearby college, have put together a special production documenting Neeson’s life which will be screened at a red carpet ceremony marking his freedom of the Co Antrim town.
The teenagers from St Patrick’s College and Northern Regional College teamed up to produce, direct and star in a film tribute to the Oscar-nominated actor.
The short film documents Neeson’s rise to stardom, from taking part in school plays at St Patrick’s College to becoming one of the best-known actors in the world.
It includes interviews with those who knew him as a child, fellow actors from the Slemish Players drama group and old sparring partners from All Saints Boxing Club where Neeson showed considerable promise as a teenager.
Frankie McEldowney, media lecturer at Northern Regional College, said he was delighted to respond to Ballymena Borough Council’s invitation to take a lead role in the celebrations, securing an opportunity for his students.
“It’s very apt for Ballymena students to be involved in the project and it’s fair to say they are really excited and thrilled at the opportunity,” he said.
“Our students are huge fans of Liam Neeson and his movies, plus the fact that he’s from the town makes it all the sweeter.”
The students have also incorporated the views of Ballymena residents as well as giving personal comments on their favourite performances by Neeson.
Mayor of Ballymena, Alderman PJ McAvoy — who proposed the freedom award and is a friend of the Neeson family — said Liam will be thrilled by the production.
“As a St Patrick’s College ‘old boy’ and a longstanding supporter of the arts in our borough, I think Liam will really enjoy the fact we are showcasing young, local talent and creativity,” he said.
“As a movie star, he’ll certainly appreciate the hard work and commitment which have gone into this excellent production.”
The film screening is one of a number of tributes lined up for the award of the honorary title.
Around 300 guests will be present for a dinner in the Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena, next Monday.
For those not fortunate enough to have secured a ticket, the ceremony will be broadcast live via a big screen in the Seven Towers Leisure Centre.
As well as being presented with the DVD of his life, Neeson (60) will also be given a painting on behalf of the council.
The artist behind the painting, Catherine Flood, said: “This is all very exciting as it came as an absolute surprise to me,” she said.
“I just hope Liam enjoys the painting as much as I enjoyed working on it.”
Neeson will bring along a number of guests to the reception, with Mr McAvoy previously stating that he hoped Liam’s close friend Robert de Niro would be among those treading on the red carpet.
Liam Neeson was born in Ballymena in 1952. He was educated at St Patrick’s College, Ballymena Technical College and Queen’s before moving to Dublin to pursue acting. He was a promising boxer as well as a budding stage star while still at school. The 60-year-old was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Schindler’s List and other box office hits include Star Wars, and the Taken series.