Belfast Telegraph

Liam Neeson's Catholic faith has waned but mum still devout at 90

By Brett Anderson

Liam Neeson - who portrays a priest who renounces Christianity in his new movie - has revealed his own Catholic faith has dwindled.

The Ballymena-born star plays 17th century cleric Fr Christovao Ferreira in Silence, directed by Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese.

Ferreira recants his faith after being forced to endure the sight of Japanese Christians being crucified and tortured.

Neeson described his own waning faith as "a gradual process", but added that he admired true faith in others, especially his mother Kitty, who is 90.

"She gets annoyed if she can't walk to Mass on Sunday morning, and I just think: 'Mom, you're 90. It's OK! God will forgive you'," he told The Times Magazine.

He also described being one of few Catholics in his home town. He said: "It wasn't easy living in Northern Ireland in the Fifties and Sixties."

He said he grew up "cautious".

"Our town was essentially Protestant, but there were a few Catholics on our street. The Protestants all had marches and bands and stuff. I didn't quite understand what it was about," he said.

Neeson, who was at university in the late Sixties and early Seventies when the Troubles started, said he was unworldly in those days. "Drive-by shootings, bombs. I was at university for one abortive year and we were so f****** naive," he explained.

"You'd be in a bar, drinking a glass of cider, and suddenly soldiers would come in and say: 'Everybody out - there's a bomb scare'. We'd order more drinks to take across the street, then the soldiers would go off and we'd filter back into the bar. F****** stupid."

The actor now spends a lot of time walking in New York's Central Park and has become a hero to more than 300 horse and carriage drivers in the Big Apple after becoming involved in local politics.

During his 2013 election campaign, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio promised to ban horse-drawn carriages in the park.

The move had big-name advocates, including Miley Cyrus and Alec Baldwin.

Neeson, who grew up caring for horses on his aunt's farm in Co Armagh, waded in to defend the drivers.

"There were so many celebrities supporting (the ban) I was like, these guys need a celebrity or two," he explained.

The carriage drivers consider his intervention as a game-changer.

Colm McKeever, an Irish-born driver and friend of Neeson, said: "There's a framed picture of him in every stable.

"It's the Pope and then Liam Neeson."

He dismissed being considered in the Ninties as a potential James Bond as "no big deal" - but revealed that his late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he was 007. He added: "Women, foreign countries, Halle Berry. It's understandable!"

He said that it was nice to be enquired after, and admitted he would have loved to have been given the role.

Missing out hasn't hindered his career. Neeson, who turns 65 soon, is still a bankable star. His latest movies - Silence and A Monster Calls - will be released on January 1.

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