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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 00:51 GMT
Star Wars actor gets OBE

Liam Neeson(right): Starred alongside Ewan McGregor in The Phantom Menace

Northern Ireland's most famous movie star has been rewarded with an OBE in the New Year Honours list.

Ballymena-born Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson was among 98 people from Northern Ireland to be named in the annual roll of honour.

Mr Neeson, who starred earlier this year in the blockbuster Star Wars-The Phantom Menace, had an eventful year.

After the production of the George Lucas-directed The Phantom Menace ended, he was reported as wanting to quit the movie business.

He told reporters in New York that, after more than 20 films and an Oscar nomination for Schindler's List, he was completely disillusioned.

The 46-year-old said he could no longer bear to watch films, especially his own.

"Film is a director's medium, it has nothing to do with actors. We are basically puppets, walking around, hitting marks, saying lines," he said

Before taking to the stage, he was a boxer and fork-lift truck driver.

He was spotted by film director John Boorman while acting at Dublin's Abbey Theatre. He then appeared in Boorman's film Excalibur in 1981.

He later dismissed the report as "exaggerated" but admitted he wanted to play more roles on stage.

Natasha Richardson: Married to star of Schindler's List
He, along with his wife, Natasha Richardson brought a successful libel action against a number of UK newspapers and donated the five figure proceeds to the fund set up to help those injured and bereaved in the Omagh bomb.

He was also involved in a war of words with politicians in his hometown when he claimed to have been treated "as a second class citizen" while growing up there.

One of his most prominent roles in recent years has been his portrayal of Irish rebel leader Michael Collins.

The IRA leader fought a guerilla war against the British between 1919 and 1921 which led to the signing of a treaty in December 1921.

Other roles played by Mr Neeson include parts in films such as The Mission, Suspect and Rob Roy.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a German businessman who rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazi death camps in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List".

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Peerage for Parades chairman
31 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland's New Year honours
19 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Big Apple debut for NI film-makers
02 Oct 98 |  Entertainment
Film stars give libel win to Omagh

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