Star Wars: Liam Neeson shares Phantom Menace memories and lightsaber ‘secret’

Made in Italy: Liam Neeson stars in Amazon Prime trailer

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Beamed live from their home in New York, Liam was promoting the new film Made In Italy this week on the Graham Norton Show. He stars alongside his son, fellow actor Micheál. The comedy-drama follows the story of father and son reeling from the loss of their wife and mother. It is an emotional echo of Liam and Micheál’s real-life loss of Natasha Richardson in 2009. At the end of the interview, the conversation moved to Star Wars.

Liam shared an incredible anecdote about the power of George Lucas’s creations and the director’s reaction.

He said: “I was making Star Wars The Phantom Menace at Leavesden studios. It was lunchtime and Micheál was two and I was carrying him showing him the set and R2-D2 was parked there. 

“I went around pointing things about and he knew nothing of Stars Wars. He was two. He saw this little metallic creature (Liam mimes a baby reaching out his arms) and I had to get down and he waddled over to this thing and started hugging him, which I thought was fascinating.”

Liam added: “After lunch, I told George Lucas I brought my son and he had to get down and go over to R2-D2 and just hug him.

“And he wasn’t surprised and had a smile on his face. He said, ‘Yeah he has that effect on children.’

“I said, ‘But my kid is two years of age. You know, it’s a big chunk of metal.’ But he just knew it was cuddly and comfortable and friendly.”

Micheál, however, revealed not all his Star Wars memories were so positive.

He said: “It was kind of traumatising at the age of five seeing my dad sliced in half by a lightsaber or blown up in some crazy factory explosion, and also kissing somebody else.”

He is, of course, referring to Qui-Gon’s death at the hands of Darth Maul.

Graham Norton asked Micheál if that was what it is like all the time at home when he brings friends or dates to the house. He said: “Pretty much. He’s (always) got the lightsaber out..”

Liam added: “I’ll go, ‘Hi, have you seen Taken 1,2 and 3? Have you seen The Phantom Menace? OK, I’ll leave you guys.'”

Graham asked if there are any Star Wars memorabilia at the house and Micheal said, “There is the Holy Grail…”

But Liam didn’t pull out what everyone expected at first.

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The actor leaned down and returned with a short piece of wood.

He said: “This piece of wood has been to the planet Tatooine and back many, many times.”

And then he said; “Oh, I’m terribly sorry” and turned it around, revealing a mounted lightsaber. He reminded everyone the film wasn’t originally called The Phantom Menace before jokily sharing a little ‘secret.’

Liam said: “The film was going to be called The Beginning. It says it here (he points to the plaque). Anyway, this is the one I had in the film.”

The original draft of the script for ‘The Beginning” actually had Obi-Wan Kenobi not Qui-Gon discovering and mentoring Anakin Skywalker. 

Liam added: “Fans think you turn on the lightsaber with your mind. No. There’s a little red button. It’s nothing to do with the mind.”

Of course, most fans actually already know that all but a very few legendary lightsabers are activated by an external button or lever, although in some cases a Jedi has used the Force to do it remotely. 

From the very first time Luke held a lightsaber in A New Hope (long before he had any inkling of using the Force) he pressed the button and that famous glowing blade appeared.

Made In Italy is out now on Amazon Prime

The Graham Norton Show is available on BBC i-Player

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