He downplayed speculation that he would be making a cameo appearance in the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, but fans kept the faith.
And on Wednesday viewers were rewarded when Liam Neeson’s longhaired Qui-Gon Jinn popped up in the sixth and final episode, taking the form of a force ghost.
After it was announced that the Star Wars prequel spin-off show would be a rematch between Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan and his former Jedi Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, rumours began to circulate that Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn would feature too.
Having been killed by Darth Maul in a lightsaber duel in The Phantom Menace, fans were hopeful that the Ballymena man would reappear at some stage as a force ghost, particularly as he had previously said he’d be ‘up for’ reuniting with McGregor.
But last year, the 70-year-old denied he was returning when pressed on the subject on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, saying he hadn’t been approached but didn’t think he would do it anyway.
The finale of the new Disney+ series, which has been widely praised by audiences and critics alike, saw a much-waited-for rematch between Obi-Wan and Hayden Christensen’s Darth Vadar.
Viewers were then treated to the return of the legendary lightsaber-wielding Qui-Gon Jinn, back to guide his old comrade in a role Neeson hasn’t reprised since originating in 1999’s Episode One: The Phantom Menace.
“Well, it took you long enough,” he quips, to which Obi-Wan replies: “I was beginning to think you’d never come” - a subtle reference to the fans who had waited for the reunion.
Qui-Gon then says: “I was always here, Obi-Wan. You just were not ready to see.”
Fans were delighted with the cameo, with many taking to Twitter to express their joy and surprise.
One wrote: “AFTER 23 YEARS, MY FAVORITE PREQUEL ERA JEDI IS BACK!! LIAM NEESON AS QUI-GON JINN OMG!!”
Another said: “I’m so happy that Liam Neeson came back as force ghost Qui Gon Jinn.”
Others wondered what the appearance could mean should the series get renewed for a second series.
“The finale was wonderful,” posted a third fan. “But it begs for a season two. There is room in canon for it. And have Liam Neeson be a bigger role!”
Whether Disney gives the greenlight for another series remains to be seen, although it has been rumoured to be in the pipeline.
The cast has expressed interest in returning and the finale left open the possibility of future episodes.
It’s not the first time an actor has reprised an old role, or in Neeson’s case, made a famous cameo.
The action hero star also provoked a huge reaction recently on social media when he popped up in a guest role as a PSNI officer in the third and final series of Derry Girls.
ACTORS WHO HAVE RETURNED TO FORMER ROLES
Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford reprised their Star Wars roles over 30 years later.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s most recent appearance in horror film Halloween came 40 years after the original movie was released, featuring her as Laurie Strode.
Ralph Macchio returned to portray Daniel LaRusso from three Karate Kid movies for the Netflix series Cobra Kai.
Sylvester Stallone first played Rocky Balboa in 1976 and has since continued to play him in numerous other films, including Creed and Creed II.
Top Gun starred Tom Cruise as Maverick in 1986. He reprised the role in this year’s Top Gun: Maverick, some 36 years later.