Liam Neeson's next steps

Doubt looms over projects, including film echoing tragedy

Natasha Richardson dies at 45

NEW YORK -- The tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson has led her husband, Liam Neeson, to set aside his career, at least for the moment.

Projects for Neeson, who left the Toronto set of Atom Egoyan marital drama "Chloe" to be by his wife's side after she suffered a head injury while skiing Monday, are understandably on hold for the British actor.

The actress' death came just as Neeson was experiencing a career resurgence following the success of his most recent film, "Taken." Fox's modestly budgeted thriller was a surprise hit in February, earning a whopping $200 million at the worldwide boxoffice.

On the heels of "Taken," the actor has been under consideration for "Unknown White Male," an international thriller that Joel Silver's Dark Castle is producing for Warners to distribute.

Producers had been out to Neeson for the title role, a doctor visiting Berlin who suffers an injury that leads to a coma. When the doctor awakens, he finds he has been replaced by another man and then sets off on a quest to discover the truth.

The immediate prospects of other projects Neeson has been weighing also are uncertain.

Most imminently comes the question of "Chloe." Playing opposite Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried, Neeson depicts a man whose wife suspects him of cheating. The film began shooting last month, but it is not clear how far along Neeson's scenes have come, and how a hiatus might affect production.

The Irish actor has long been attached to "Lincoln," a long-gestating historical pic Steven Spielberg has been developing about the life and circumstances of the 16th president during the time of the Civil War.

The project was not expected to go imminently, but Neeson's uncertain status could further cloud its fate.

The Irish actor does have several completed films that could see him coming to the big screen in the coming year even if he opts not to jump back into work.

He stars as a former IRA rebel seeking forgiveness in Oliver Hirschbiegel's drama "Five Minutes of Heaven," which recently played the Sundance Film Festival but has not yet sold to a distributor.

And he plays an ominous funeral director in the indie horror pic "After.Life," which Plum Pictures produced; that movie recently wrapped and also does not yet have American distribution.

Tragic events in the personal lives of stars have tended to put on the actors' careers on temporary, but not permanent, hiatus.

When Mark Ruffalo lost his brother late last year in a shooting, for instance, his directorial debut "Sympathy for Delicious" was temporarily thrown into question before it got back on track at the end of January.
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