Hollywood star on swapping pints of Guinness for pots of tea, his early days in the Lyric, and why he never had the heart to make it as a boxer
Liam Neeson has said that he is “f***ing boring” now that he lives such a health-conscious life and is eight years tee-total.
As well as giving up booze, the Ballymena-born movie star also ditched caffeine and still works out.
And he revealed that he has trouble sleeping — so he takes gummies with cannabis oil (CBD) to help him.
Liam (69) said: “When I was in Ireland in the theatre, after shows we’d go to the local pub and I adored Guinness, absolutely adored it.
“And then you turn a certain age and it sticks to you, do you know what I mean? You start putting on weight.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God’ and I switched to red wine and then I absolutely adored that too.
“But I stopped drinking just over eight years ago and I must say, I don’t miss it.
“I also gave up caffeine. I know, so f***ing boring. And I constantly have a Stanley mug, I adore them, it keeps my black decaf tea hot for five or six hours.
“It’s also my little security blanket, I take it on set. I try to get it onto every movie.
“I have gummies with the CBD and a little bit of melatonin and I take those every night. I do have trouble sleeping.”
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a legal and natural compound found in cannabis which doesn’t cause a high like cannabis smokers experience.
Liam, who recently had a cameo role in Derry Girls, has starred in a string of action movies in recent years such as the Taken series of films and credits his healthy lifestyle with helping him cope with the demands of the role.
He explained: “I have a little routine — I get up and I exercise for 30 to 35 minutes maximum, no more than that.
“I do my own fighting — that I like to do — but stunts? No. No jumping out of windows and falling over chairs, but fighting is like learning a dance.
“I have a bag. I have a gym and I use a bag sometimes, but I just like to read, I’m an avid reader.
“It’s very boring. I fly fish whenever I get the chance. I’m going to go to Jimmy (Kimmel’s) lodge sometime this year.”
Training on a punchbag has been a lifelong pursuit for the Co Antrim man who was a boxer in his youth before deciding it wasn’t going to be his chosen career.
He said: “At he age of 13, 14 I started to shoot up — I’m 6ft 4in now — but the punches, they were starting to hurt.
“I remember once we had a tournament in our little local parochial hall in my hometown back in Ireland and I was boxing this guy and I actually won the fight but I felt in my heart of hearts that I didn’t win that fight. When I came out of the ring, my trainer said, ‘OK Liam, go on downstairs and put your clothes on.’
“But I didn’t know what he meant — it was weird — it was like a kind of strange concussion, so that was my last fight.
“I knew enough to think, ‘F*** this, I’m getting out of this.’”
Liam was speaking to the Hollywood-based acting trio Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett for their SmartLess podcast, which goes on general release on Monday.
They were fascinated when he told them about the start of his career on stage in 1976 at a time when violence was rife on the streets of Northern Ireland.
He said: “I was actually living in Belfast, I was in the theatre, there were bombs and armoured cars going around... it was a bit like Ukraine, I can imagine, at the minute.
“And I was in this theatre called the Lyric Players’ Theatre and we played six nights a week during the height of the Troubles, that theatre never closed.
“A couple of times there were bomb scares, soldiers would come in and we’d have to go out onto the street with the audience. Then it would be, ‘OK, all clear,’ and go back in again and finish the show.
“My mindset was, I was just so thrilled to be acting and getting paid for it. And it was literally as simple as that.
“You know, I was 24 when I turned professional and still pretty much a kid and all this s*** was happening out on the streets, but I felt I was in a bubble — my own bubble of joy doing these plays.”
A year later Liam got his first film experience in 1977 — playing Jesus — and he said it was the divine intervention he needed to swap stage for screen.
He said: “My first movie was for an evangelical outreach who were making a film in Belfast, believe it or not, of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
“And apparently the little film is still touring Africa to get converts to the evangelical religion.
“I remember, there’s a place called Cavehill which overlooks the city of Belfast, and I was playing Jesus Christ.
“And actually I’m crucified, so I was up on a cross with a fake crown of thorns and my hands with make-up and false nails stuck in them.
“I remember thinking, ‘Why are they not rolling the camera? Why are they not saying ‘Action’ and stuff?’
“And the team of evangelical people, they were all praying.
“I was standing there and I was like... my arms were getting so shaky and I’m looking down at Belfast and I’m seeing armoured cars going up and down and sirens going and thinking, ‘This is f***ing crazy — but I love it.’”
And Liam, currently filming new flick In the Land of Saints and Sinners with “good friend Ciaran Hinds” in Donegal, said that he has no plans to slow down any time soon.
He added: “Do you know something, I’m not blowing smoke up my ass here, just prior to Christmas past I finished my 100th film.
“Tony (Sir Anthony) Hopkins used to say something anytime we’d see each other, we’d give each other a hug, and I’d say, ‘How’s it going, Tony?’
“He’d say, ‘Great, I haven’t been found out yet.’ I feel the exact same.”
The full interview with Liam Neeson goes on general release on the SmartLess podcast, produced by Wondery and Amazon Music, from Monday.