Grieving Neeson puts pics on hold


The 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 the Atom Egoyan marital drama "Chloe" to be by Richardson's side after she suffered a head injury while skiing Monday, are on hold.

The actress' death came 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, topping $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 Warner Bros.

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 When he awakens, he has been replaced by another man and then sets off on a quest to discover the truth.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

"Chloe" began shooting last month. Neeson stars with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried as a man whose wife suspects him of cheating. The production issued a statement that said: "Our hearts go out to Liam and his family at this difficult time. 'Chloe' will continue with its production schedule focusing on scenes which feature other cast members. There are some scenes with Liam Neeson which have not been completed; however, we do not feel this is the time to address that matter."

The Irish actor has long been attached to "Lincoln," a long-gestating historical pic Steven Spielberg has been developing about 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.

Neeson has several completed films that could see him hitting 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 played at Sundance but has not 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 does not have North American distribution.

Richardson also had a completed film that has not yet been released in the U.S. In the Universal/Working Title feature "Wild Child," which also stars Emma Roberts as a bratty Malibu teen who is shipped to a strict boarding school, Richardson plays the head of the school. It has been released in a number of foreign territories and had been scheduled for a May U.S. opening, but earlier this year the studio moved it off that date and has not rescheduled it.

A studio rep said Thursday that the movie remains unscheduled.

Published reports Thursday also suggested that Richardson had done voice work in what appeared to be a documentary about the mountain climber George Mallory, reading letters from Mallory's widow Ruth, with Neeson said to have narrated the film. (partialdiff)
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