The 70-year-old actor recalled how producer Barbara Broccoli reached out to him several times regarding the role just after Neeson was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Oskar Schindler in “Schindler’s List” (1993). But the Hollywood star explained how love trumped career in this case.
“I know the Broccolis. They looked at a bunch of actors,” Neeson told Rolling Stone during an interview published on February 20.
“‘Schindler’s List’ had come out and Barbara [Broccoli] had called me a couple of times to ask if I was interested, and I said, ‘Yes, I would be interested.’ And then my lovely wife [Natasha Richardson], God rest her soul, said to me while we were shooting ‘Nell’ down in the Carolinas, ‘Liam, I want to tell you something: If you play James Bond, we’re not getting married.’”
The actor said he would tease Richardson by “going behind her back, making my fingers as though I’m holding a gun, and [humming the James Bond theme].”
“I loved doing that s***!” he said about poking fun at his wife, who died in 2009 due to a head injury while skiing.
“She gave me a James Bond ultimatum,” Neeson recalled of turning down the part. “And she meant it! Come on, there’s all those gorgeous girls in various countries getting into bed and getting out of bed. I’m sure a lot of her decision-making was based on that!”
Though the actor never took a turn portraying Bond, he did make a name for himself in the action series “Taken,” which brought Neeson a huge amount of recognition in the genre.
In the movie, Neeson threatens his daughter’s kidnappers by saying, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.”
The actor recently discussed how he initially found his well-known speech in the 2008 film “corny.”
“I certainly did sound scary, but I thought it was corny,” Neeson told Vanity Fair during a February interview. “It was a cornball. I really did feel that. It’s nice to be proven wrong.”
The speech has become one of the most quoted in recent movie history.