Even before Liam Neeson appeared in a galaxy far, far away in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, he was an established Hollywood actor. The original trilogy cast was made up of mostly unknown performers at the time, so having a big-name celebrity like Neeson take up the mantle of Qui-Gon Jinn was a real treat for Star Wars fans.
From his monumental performance in Schindler’s List to heart-pounding action thrillers like Taken, Liam Neeson has proved that he is one of those guys who can truly do it all. However, just because fans can see him onscreen in the Star Wars saga, doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to his story.
Despite only appearing on camera in the first film of the trilogy, Neeson’s character and performance would leave a lasting legacy on the rest of the franchise. Additionally, Qui-Gon helps the audience to understand how the tragic story of Darth Vader began.
Here are five facts about Liam Neeson in Star Wars that you may not know.
1. Neeson made sure that his son got to meet the “stars”
Principal photography on The Phantom Menace got underway in 1997 at Leavesden Studios in the UK. While most of the actors were busy going through takes and rehearsing, Liam Neeson made time to take his two-year-old son Micheál around the set. He described his son’s reaction to meeting R2-D2 on an episode of The Graham Norton Show:
Neeson then went on to describe the encounter to George Lucas, who reportedly told him that this reaction to R2-D2 was a common occurrence among children. It just goes to show the power of Star Wars, and how the characters and stories in these movies can resonate with people of nearly any age.
Perhaps not all mainstream actors would be that eager to have their children around the set when they are in the middle of making a giant blockbuster. However, Neeson’s tour of the studio with his son obviously left a lasting impact on him, as his alludes to in the interview.
2. He still has Qui-Gon’s original prop lightsaber at home
Obviously, when actors are in groundbreaking films like Star Wars, they are going to want to take home some props. The cast of the sequel trilogy, in particular, has talked about “prop-swiping,” with Daisy Ridley revealing that she took home a number of trinkets from The Rise of Skywalker.
Clearly, Liam Neeson was no different when it came to grabbing some keepsakes for his bookshelf. The actor showed off Qui-Gon Jinn’s original lightsaber during an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden:
Not only does Neeson have his lightsaber from the film, but he also mounted it on a wooden display board engraved with “The Beginning’.” This was reportedly George Lucas’ working title for Episode I (The Phantom Menace sounds much better, if you ask me.)
It’s hard to say for sure if Neeson has kept any other mementos from his time on the Star Wars set, but it wouldn’t be that surprising if he had some more items lying around the house. He also didn’t specifically say whether or not he was given the lightsaber or if he took it, but his dialogue with Corden makes it sound more like the saber was a gift.
Perhaps if Neeson goes back onto another talk show or does any more interviews, then we’ll be able to see if he has any other cool Star Wars stuff to show off.
3. Neeson loves The Phantom Menace
This one might not come as that much of a surprise given the Neeson was one of the movie’s stars. However, given that The Phantom Menace had a controversial reception and has the second-lowest critic’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s still awesome to know that Neeson is proud of the project.
In an interview with Andy Cohen, he explained that he was incredibly proud of the film, and extolled how much fun he had creating the movie:
It’s awesome to hear how much praise Neeson has for the film, and especially for the actual filmmaking process. Most Star Wars fans could probably imagine that playing around with lightsabers and blasters would be a true thrill, and it sounded like Liam Neeson’s experience was no different.
Hopefully, if Neeson ever wanted to reprise his role as Qui-Gon Jinn in a Star Wars project, he would have the same experience that he had on The Phantom Menace. However, his appearance would probably come in a television show, not in another feature film. We’ll get to that in a bit, though.
4. He thinks that co-star Ahmed Best is a comedic genius
One of the most controversial aspects of The Phantom Menace has to be the character of Jar Jar Binks. Even two decades after the film’s release, the clumsy Gungan is still not well-received by some fans. Liam Neeson isn’t in that camp, though.
In the same interview with Andy Cohen, Neeson heaped a ton of praise not only onto Jar Jar, but also onto actor Ahmed Best. Not only did he explain how great of an actor Best is, but he also said that he considered him alongside one of the greatest comedians of all time.
“I have to say that when I was making the film, he [Best] was probably one of the funniest guys and talented guys I had ever worked with,” Neeson said. “I remember calling my old ex-agent at ICM and said, ‘I think I just worked with the new Eddie Murphy.’ I still believe that.”
To compare a comedian to Eddie Murphy, especially back then, was perhaps the highest praise that could be given. Obviously, Liam thinks the world of Ahmed Best, as he should. Without the groundbreaking motion-capture performance that brought Jar Jar Binks to life, CGI today would definitely not be the same.
In recent years, Ahmed Best has begun to become much more widely accepted by the larger Star Wars community. He received an extremely warm welcome at Star Wars Celebration 2019, which Neeson also alluded to.
Perhaps the pair will get another chance to work together again someday, because it would be an awe-inspiring thing to see them reunited. Whether or not it’s in a Star Wars project remains to be seen.
5. Neeson is open to reprising the role of Qui-Gon
Despite nothing official being announced, fans have been pushing for Neeson to reprise his famous role of Qui-Gon Jinn for a long time. As it turns out, the actor himself is in the same camp.
Numerous theories regarding the character’s potential return have been floating around, from cameos in future Star Wars projects, to a rumor this past March that Lucasfilm was developing a standalone Qui-Gon series. Neeson has also reportedly expressed interest in a role on Disney+’s upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi.
While the Jedi master would’ve been long dead by the timeline of Obi-Wan Kenobi, there is a good probability that Neeson will, at the very least, have a line of dialogue. Qui-Gon’s force ghost was heard briefly in Attack of the Clones, and his continued training in the afterlife was heavily referenced in Revenge of the Sith.
This being the case, it would seemingly be very easy for the writers to weave Qui-Gon Jinn’s ghost into a storyline in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Whether or not this ends up being the case remains to be seen, however, it would definitely please a lot of fans to see the ponytailed Jedi back in action again.
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