"Liam Neeson is a master Jedi, the center of the movie—just like Alec Guinness was in the first movie. When you start to cast a character like this, you think, ‘Where are we going to find another Alec Guinness? Where are we going to find someone with that kind of nobility, that kind of strength, and that kind of center?’ Liam was the guy who could do it. There wasn’t anybody else who could do it. And when we saw him in the part, it was like, ‘Of course. It’s a natural’ He had the presence we needed. He was tall and very strong, with a powerful nature. And like Alec Guinness in the original movies, he was an actor that other members of the cast looked up to."
―George Lucas[1]

Liam Neeson, (born William John Neeson on June 7, 1952) is an actor from Northern Ireland. He played the role of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in the 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. He has since voiced the character in various Star Wars projects, including Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker, and Tales of the Jedi. He returned to physically portray the character in a scene in the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi.


Early life and career[]

Born as William John Neeson in Ballymena, Northern Ireland on June 7, 1952, Liam Neeson rose to prominence as an actor after being cast in the 1980 film Excalibur. In 1993, his performance as Oskar Schindler in the Steven Spielberg-directed film Schindler's List was widely acclaimed and nominated for numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.[2] He went on to become an international star with roles such as Rob Roy (1995) and Michael Collins (1996).[1]

The Phantom Menace[]

Casting and preproduction[]

"We actually talked about kids, George is a family man, and I have two little boys—and that's what we talked about. The only time Star Wars came up was as I was leaving, when I said to him, 'For what it's worth, George, I would love to be part of this film.'"
―Liam Neeson[1]

When writing the prequel trilogy film Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, George Lucas envisioned the role of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn as played by an American[3] actor in his 60s. However, casting director Robin Gurland kept Neeson's name on the shortlist of possible actors, believing he could bring the mythic and spiritual qualities required for the character. As such, the filmmakers considered that the slightly younger Neeson would be more suitable in playing a Jedi warrior. When Lucas met with the actor for an interview, they mostly only discussed personal matters such as their children, avoiding Star Wars entirely. Neeson only mentioned that he would be interested in appearing in the film as the meeting concluded. Producer Rick McCallum was soon in touch and secured Neeson for the role. Lucas was thrilled, believing him to be one of the only actors who could match the noble presence that Alec Guinness had embodied in his performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original trilogy films. Neeson viewed the character as a "timeless sort of soul;" a monk skilled in martial arts while possessing a unique moral code. His preparation for the role included rewatching the original trilogy as well as Seven Samurai[1] a 1954 film that had influenced the original trilogy.[4] Neeson wanted to understand characters who showed great dignity and courage.[1]

Prior to filming, Neeson was presented with a gilded box by Lucas, from which the actor chose his character's lightsaber.[1]


"Ewan and I were just thrilled. We kept laughing and shouting: ‘Yeeeahh! We're in Star Wars!'"
―Liam Neeson, describing his first day of filming The Phantom Menace[1]

The filming of The Phantom Menace commenced on June 26, 1997. Lucas commented that the reality of returning to making a Star Wars film hit him when Neeson first walked on set in his Jedi robes.[1]

Many of the film's sets were only built up as high as the heights of its cast as a cost-saving measure, with the remainder filled in with bluescreen effects. Neeson's height of 1.93 centimeters meant that the production cost an additional $150,000 for every scene he appeared in. Neeson acknowledged that the amount of visual effects on set could have been intimidating for the performers, but Lucas's involvement in its development and subsequent mastery put the cast at ease.[1]

Neeson's first day of shooting occurred on July 2, alongside principal actors including Ewan McGregor, playing Jinn's young Padawan Kenobi. The scene involved the characters arriving on the planet Coruscant to meet Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum, played by Terence Stamp. Neeson and McGregor were both ecstatic at their involvement in the Star Wars saga. Neeson also filmed a scene on that day where Jinn discusses Midi-chlorians with a young Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd. He found Lucas's explanation of the science behind the Force "fascinating and believable."[1]

Two weeks into the shooting schedule, a dinner scene was filmed in the Skywalker home. Neeson felt there was a subtle romantic chemistry between his character and Anakin's mother Shmi Skywalker, which he and actress Pernilla August were conciously aware of. Many scenes set on the desert planet Tatooine were shot in Tunisia, Africa. Neeson recalled filming being difficult due to the country's heat, but said that Lucas's seemingly unfazed disposition kept the crew from complaining.[1]

The film's climactic lightsaber duel was one of the last sequences to be filmed, and preparation involved long training sessions hosted by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard with Neeson, McGregor, and Ray Park, who played Darth Maul. Gillard praised the two Jedi performers for their movement speed. Neeson commented that he could only recall two or three movements in a sequence at a time, while McGregor could perform up to twelve or thirteen. Gavin Hale served as Neeson's stand in. At the end of filming, Jinn's lightsaber was mounted for Neeson and given to him as a gift, which he found exhilarating.[1] McGregor has highlighted that he enjoyed working with Neeson on the film.[5]

Further appearances[]

"I enjoyed very much being with Ewan and George Lucas on The Phantom Menace. We shot that 26 years ago! Would I do it again? I don't think so. Too fucking old, ya know? I can't see the situation, I really can't, you know?"
―Liam Neeson in 2024[6]

Neeson's voice can be heard in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. Neeson was originally slated to appear in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, but was unable to participate in filming due to an injury.[source?] He appeared in a vocal capacity as Jinn in Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker.[7]

Neeson spoke to director Deborah Chow and she told him that McGregor would reprise his role as Kenobi in a series. She explained that when Kenobi was going through a journey, he reached out for help but Jinn was not there. Kenobi would finally see Jinn at the end of his journey. Leeson then said he was definitely onboard with the series.[8] He played Jinn as a Force ghost in the sixth episode.[9] He enjoyed being reunited with McGregor and he thought Chow was a wonderful director.[8] Neeson also returned to voice Jinn in Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, with his son Micheál Richardson voicing a younger version of the character in the series as well. In 2024, in an interview with Screen Rant, Neeson officially ruled out appearing in live action again as Jinn due to his age.[6]



Year Title Series Contribution(s) Notes
1999 Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace Qui-Gon Jinn
2002 Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones Qui-Gon Jinn Voice only; uncredited
2011 "Overlords" Star Wars: The Clone Wars Qui-Gon Jinn
2011 "Ghosts of Mortis" Star Wars: The Clone Wars Qui-Gon Jinn
2014 "Voices" Star Wars: The Clone Wars Qui-Gon Jinn
2018 "A World Between Worlds" Star Wars Rebels Qui-Gon Jinn Audio from The Phantom Menace; uncredited
2019 "Jedi vs. Sith - The Skywalker Saga" Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Qui-Gon Jinn
2019 Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker Qui-Gon Jinn Voice only
2022 "Part I" Obi-Wan Kenobi Qui-Gon Jinn Footage from The Phantom Menace; uncredited
2022 "Part III" Obi-Wan Kenobi Qui-Gon Jinn Audio from The Phantom Menace; uncredited
2022 "Part VI" Obi-Wan Kenobi Qui-Gon Jinn Uncredited
2022 "The Sith Lord" Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn[10]


Year Title Format Notes
2017 The Phantom Menace Read-Along Storybook and CD Young reader Voiced Qui-Gon Jinn


Explore all of Wookieepedia's audio files for this article subject.

Notes and references[]

External links[]