Liam Neeson was recently presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Cinema Award by the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at the IFTA Film & Drama Awards on Saturday April 9th.
At the Awards Ceremony, The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins made the official presentation to Liam in Dublin on behalf of the Irish Academy (IFTA). In praising Neeson for his “vast and impressive body of work”, President Higgins raised laughter from the crowd when he added that Neeson had a “very particular set of skills”, and that "Liam Neeson has left a profound imprint on the landscape of international cinema, and he is Irish in doing that, and he also belongs to the world and to the art of acting and filmmaking that knows no borders.”
Irish Academy CEO Áine Moriarty said Neeson is “an inspiration to young Irish filmmakers and actors coming through the ranks in the industry today”.
Martin Scorsese said that “Liam is someone that instantly commands the attention of the viewer. There are very few actors left in cinema today that carries that kind of weight but Liam is one of them. He holds the screen with his extraordinary mixture of gravity and grace.”
Steven Spielberg also had high praise for the Irish actor, telling Neeson that his portrayal of Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List was “the greatest gift you ever could have given me and the greatest gift you ever could have given the world. He said to Liam "I am just so absolutely proud of you.”
Ralph Fiennes told Neeson "You are a king in every way” and said “you contain so many unique qualities that are yours and yours alone. You come in the tradition of great heroic protagonists, men of great physical stature who carry within them complexity in their hearts – I am always so moved when I see you on screen.”
Harrison Ford who worked with Neeson on K-19: The Widowmaker said he spent months “locked in an iron tube with Neeson” and said to Liam “Liam, you are an amazing actor, a really warm and wonderful human being and I am proud to know you, and I would love to work with you again.”
Neil Jordan who directed Neeson in three films (Michael Collins, Breakfast on Pluto & High Spirits) said that Neeson “has got all the depth of the great theatre tradition and all the magnetism of a star like Gary Cooper”.
John Boorman, who director Liam in 1981 on Excalibur said, “I think Liam always had a very naturalist air about him like all great movie stars – he is somehow bigger than life.”
Famke Janssen with whom Neeson has worked on three of the Taken films, said that “Liam is an amazing actor with an incredible body of work. He has been in every type of genre film you could imagine. He is incredibly gifted, incredibly charming, very warm and beautiful to look at.”
Neeson received the Irish Academy Award for his Outstanding Contribution to Cinema at the IFTA Ceremony in Dublin, surrounded by 500 of his industry peers who gave him an extended standing ovation. Neeson’s characteristic warmth and modesty shone through, with an acceptance speech which was equal parts humorous and humble. He recounted a story of taking advice from Clint Eastwood in 1988. In his best Eastwood impersonation, Neeson told of how, after mispronouncing his name as ‘Lime’ Eastwood told him to simply “Hit a few marks and say a few lines – what’s the problem?”. The Irish Actor from Ballymena confirmed that “some sixty odd films later, that’s what I genuinely try to do. I try to hit the marks and say the lines – preferably in the order they were written. It seems to be working.”
In his acceptance speech, Neeson also spoke of the need to return Ireland’s industry funding to what it was before the financial crisis stating that the current annual fund of €12.5m the industry receives (via the Irish Film Board) from the Irish government is just “seed money” and it needs to be more.