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Liam Neeson has starred in more than a few action films in his time, and many of his gritty performances have become fan-favorites. Of course, one of his signature roles is in Taken, in which he plays ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills. When the first installment was released in 2008, it became a box office hit, scoring over $220 million on a modest $25 million budget. Audiences may have been thoroughly engaged in Mills’ quest to find his kidnapped daughter, but Neeson recently revealed that he didn’t expect the film to be a hit with many viewers.
When it came to Taken, Liam Neeson definitely had faith in the vision of the creatives, including screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen. However, he fully expected the film to go the “straight-to-video” route:
I’ve said this before, and no offense to Robert Kamen, our wonderful writer and my pal, but I thought, ‘Well, this is going to go straight-to-video. A short little European thriller, it might play okay for a couple weeks in France and then it will go straight-to-video.’ But it did well in France and then it went straight to South Korea, and it did very well there.
As the 68-year-old actor explained to EW, it was a strong outing in France that kickstarted Taken’s ultimate success. And the film’s reach would become especially clear to Neeson after a humorous conversation with his two nephews, who had stumbled upon the action movie in a less than legal manner:
And then I was getting calls from my nephews in Ireland, saying, ‘[Stoner voice] Um, Uncle Liam, we saw your movie.’ I said, ‘Which one?” They said, ‘Um, Taken.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? You couldn’t have seen it.’ They said, ‘Well, we downloaded it from South Korea.’ I said, ‘You can’t do that! What are you talking about?!’ So I thought, ‘My nephews are breaking the law,’ which really pissed me off, and also I thought, ‘Well, that’s it. If you can download it, it’s gone into the ether.’ But Fox took it and they very cleverly did a good trailer and put it during various sporting events around the country and they made it a real success. I remember the first weekend it came in at No. 3, and then it came up to No. 2 and then No. 1, and then it went down to No. 4, and it came up to No. 3 again. It just had this extraordinary cycle. That’s where it started, and then there were plans to do a second one and a third one, of course. So it was luck, and you need some luck in this business.
Luckily for us, pirated versions of the film didn’t dissuade Fox from taking a chance on Taken. Liam Neeson also brings up a good point in that the studio was very shrewd when it came to marketing the film. Some may remember that commercials and trailers seemed to be everywhere leading up to its release in the US.
Taken would eventually spawn two additional installments and, by the end of the trilogy, all three films would gross a cumulative, worldwide total of $929 million. The franchise would also spawn a short-lived TV spinoff, which centered on a young Bryan Mills.
The Taken franchise may be far from perfect, but that first film still stands as thrilling action flick. Additionally, the franchise as a whole has plenty of memorable moments. Based on what it’s given us, we should probably be glad that Liam Neeson was wrong about Taken.
Taken is currently available to stream on Hulu.