Liam Neeson enters the $20 million club (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
Liam Neeson is being paid handsomely for his particular set of skills.
First of all, yes, there is going to be a third installment in the "Taken" franchise — which was most definitely inevitable, even though Neeson himself laughed off the possibility a few months ago with "That's just bad parenting" (which is true, but it also makes for good movie-making). Second of all — and this is definitely something of a surprise — Neeson himself will be joining the $20 million club for reprising his role as former CIA operative and dad, Bryan Mills.
The veteran actor (and former boxer) has opted for high octane action roles over the past several years, which has coined the playful term of "Neesploitation" — and made him one of the most bankable stars in the business. Oscar-nominated for his dramatic role in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," Neeson went on to score a handful of sword-wielding (or lightsaber-wielding) swashbuckling roles in "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" (1999), "Batman Begins" (2005) and "Kingdom of Heaven" (2005) before embracing more B-movie material like "Taken" (2009), "The A-Team" (2010), and "Unknown" (2011). Even director Joe Carnahan's moody, Malick-esque survival tale "The Grey" (2012) was marketed as a movie in which Liam Neeson took on a bunch of vicious wolves in bad weather.
Liam Neeson in 'Taken,' 2009 (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
Now, with "Taken 3," Neeson is apparently a full-blown A-list movie star — and he's got the zeroes on his paycheck to prove it. The $20 Million Club in Hollywood has had a few distinguished members over the years, though it's certainly a club from which it's pretty easy to lose one's membership, depending on how long audiences actually, you know, go to see your movies. Members of the club have included Neeson's ex-lover Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, and Mel Gibson. Stars like Kristen Stewart, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., and Johnny Depp can currently demand even more than that.
However, the $20 million club isn't what it used to be. Several stars have taken considerable pay cuts in order for certain films to actually get made. Profitable films with no-name casts like "Paranormal Activity" have also given studios more leverage in negotiating lower paychecks — after all, if they can make money with a movie starring a bunch of unknowns, what do they need movie stars for?
Fans should be pleased with Liam Neeson receiving a $20 million paycheck under any circumstances. Ever since the untimely 2009 death of his wife Natasha Richardson, Neeson has been a bit of a workaholic — and the more physical the roles, the better. He has a charm and humbleness that makes him one of Hollywood's most likable stars, and there's something truly cathartic about watching him punch out every single person in France as he frantically searches for his daughter — Neeson provides "audience participation" cinema like no one else as you can't help but root for him as he goes about his seemingly insurmountable tasks and comes out the other side with only a few cuts and bruises.
"Taken" has become a sure-thing action franchise. The original 2009 film, which cost only $5 million more than what Neeson is getting paid for the third film, grossed $376 million worldwide. Last year's "Taken 2" cost $45 million and scored $226 million.
"Taken 3" will commence production in March 2014 from a script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. No director or supporting cast has been announced, though Deadline speculates that "Taken 2" director Olivier Megaton will be back for more, as will Neeson's co-stars Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen.
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