Liam Neeson's distinctive tones in new tourism ad to promote Northern Ireland
Liam Neeson's distinctive tones can be heard in many a Hollywood blockbuster, now he is to voice a major cross-border advertising campaign promoting his beloved homeland.
The Ballymena-born star of a string of hit movies including Schindler's List and Taken, provides the unmistakable voice-over in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board's new spring campaign, which starts today.
Neeson's voice champions the people of Northern Ireland, portraying their pride in the place they come from, and urges viewers to "discover the real deal" on short breaks.
Other famous faces also star in the campaign, including Londonderry actress and singer Bronagh Gallagher who is filmed showing Hothouse Flowers' lead singer Liam Ó Maonlaí the delights the Walled City has to offer.
The TV ad features a mix of local characters and tour guides at some of Northern Ireland's favourite destinations.
Neeson, who last year was awarded the Freedom of Ballymena, said he was delighted to be involved in the campaign to promote Northern Ireland.
"I've always maintained that Northern Ireland is the world's best kept secret, both in the character of its people and its scenery," he said.
"I'm delighted to be part of this exciting campaign to promote my homeland."
Tourist Board chief executive Alan Clarke said securing Neeson to do the voiceover for their latest TV campaign is a huge coup and a significant vote of confidence in Northern Ireland's tourism industry.
"This marks the first step of a brand new direction for NITB, which will focus on the friendliness of our people and their ability to make a place memorable," he said. "Liam Neeson's voice is inimitable of course, and it glues the images of the TV ad smoothly together, encouraging viewers to take a short break in Northern Ireland and see the place in a whole new light.
"We're extremely proud that so many of our local people have supported the idea – from Liam Neeson and Bronagh Gallagher to our brilliant tour guides."
The Tourist Board believes the campaign will attract more visitors from the Republic of Ireland and continue to boost domestic tourism.
Although Neeson has lived in the United States since 1987 and is an American citizen, he feels close to his Irish origins.
In a recent interview, he said: "There's an old expression that you can take the Irishman out of the bog but you can't take the bog out of the Irishman.
"I'm very much from that school and although America's my home and where I'm raising my kids, Ireland is still a spiritual home."
Liam Neeson is best known for starring in a string of Hollywood epics, but the Ballymena-born actor actually wanted to be a teacher. His English teacher offered him the lead role in a school play when he was just 11.
Neeson went on to play Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List, earning him Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor. He made his Broadway debut in Anna Christie, in which he co-starred with his future wife Natasha Richardson, who he married in 1994.
She died in a skiing accident in 2009.