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Liam Neeson honoured at IFTAs

BBC News BBC News 10/04/2016
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Ballymena actor Liam Neeson has been honoured at the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs).

The president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, presented the Hollywood star with the Outstanding Contribution to Cinema award.

Neeson received tributes from famed directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg at the event on Saturday.

His 30-year career includes high-profile roles in films such as Schindler's List and Michael Collins.

Outstanding career

In 1976, Neeson joined the Lyric Players' Theatre in Belfast, where he spent two years with the company, playing roles in productions including Henry VI Part One and Brian Friel's Philadelphia Here I Come.

His next move was to Dublin's Abbey Theatre where he was spotted performing in Of Mice and Men by movie director John Boorman, who would hand him his first major film role in Excalibur.

In 1980 he joined Field Day, the touring Irish company set up by the actor Stephen Rea and the playwright Brian Friel.

He moved to London where he began picking up television work and minor film roles, notably alongside Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro in The Mission, where "I only had a few lines, but I had a good death".

A role in the hit US television show Miami Vice convinced Neeson to take a chance on a Hollywood career, and in 1986 he moved to the US where he landed a leading role in Suspect, playing a homeless deaf-mute opposite Cher.

Neeson told RTÉ he was "very honoured" to receive the award.

"Because it's from my peer groups, it's very humbling," he said. "A little bit embarrassing, but I'll get over it."

He also called on the Irish Film Board to be given more funding.

"We have to nurture this talent," he said. "It doesn't happen by accident."

Rock star and humanitarian Bob Geldolf was a guest presenter at the awards ceremony, joining Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer, Moone Boy writer Chris O'Dowd, and Threesome actress Amy Huberman.

Londonderry actress Roma Downey, best known for her role in hit TV series Touched by an Angel, was also honoured during the ceremony.

The actress and producer received the Irish Diaspora Award.

The big winner of the night was drama Room, which picked up seven awards including Best Film and Best Director for Lenny Abrahamson.

The event was hosted by actress and comedian Deirdre O'Kane.

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