60 year old Liam Neeson has somehow turned his descent into decrepitude into a rebirth as a gangly, soft-spoken action hero. This proves that you don’t have to be an obvious hard case to make it as an ass-kicking star. Here are 10 other unlikely candidates for action roles, neatly fitting in with this week’s release of Taken 2. Oh, and Chloe Mortez isn’t included in the list because the whole point of the Hit Girl character is that she’s an unlikely action hero. Just so you know.
10) Jesse Eisenberg
The pitter-patter of his self-deprecating, sometimes snarky delivery style has earned Eisenberg plenty of comparisons to a young Woody Allen. But in 30 Minutes or Less he had to pick up a gun, rob a bank and blow shit up to save the day. And who could forget his neatly organised rules for slaughter in Zombieland?
9) Clive Owen
Owen could almost have been James Bond, at least in the eyes of many movie fans. But while he’s certainly got the smarmy attitude of the British super spy down pat, he can’t match Daniel Craig for physicality. Which is why Owen’s appearances in movies like Shoot ‘Em Up and Children of Men seem to be his way of making amends for this missed opportunity.
8 ) John Travolta
It’s difficult to conceive of John Travolta as being either an action star or a sex symbol. But in his long career he’s managed to become both. The 1990s were particularly action-oriented for Travolta, with roles Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Phenomenon. The last of which is obviously a joke.
It’s difficult to be scared of a man called Kevin. Particularly one with a face like carved butter and an emotional range which goes from ‘breezy’ to ‘non-plussed’. But Costner has insisted on taking hardcore action parts throughout his career, from Waterworld and The Postman in the 90s to the surprisingly good Mr Brooks in 2007.
Hamilton was thrust into the action spotlight in the 1980s with The Terminator and preceded to developer her career in this area with its sequel and the likes of Dante’s Peak. Her tiny frame and big hair make her look incredibly fragile, even when balancing an assault rifle on her hip.
5) John Cusack
With his fresh face, sarcastic delivery style and flop-haired coolness in boundless supply, you’d think that Cusack could stick to playing slackers in small films and make a decent living. But in his time he’s taken action roles in movies like Con Air, Grosse Pointe Blank and 2012.
4) Simon Pegg
Everyone’s favourite comic book nerd turned action star may have strayed a long way from his roots, with parts in Star Trek and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. But even in his newly toned state he retains most of his gawky appeal.
Downey Jr. has pulled of a similar trick to Neeson and managed to find himself as one of the world’s most recognisable action stars in middle age. This is largely down to the Iron Man and Avengers franchises, but his calculated pugilism in Sherlock Holmes and its sequel have also showcased his brawny side.
2) Seth Rogen
Chubby, virile stoner or gun-toting action maniac? Seth Rogen can flit between both roles, occasionally in the same movie. Pineapple Express allowed him to stretch his legs in the action genre, but it was the disappointing Green Hornet adaptation that gave him the opportunity to become a fully fledged hero.
1) Ian McKellen
The ageing British actor has managed to take on some fairly impressive action roles over the past decade and a half, playing both Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and Magneto in X-Men. Admittedly both of these characters use invisible powers, not their fists, to do awesome stuff, but he did get to ride a horse in one and fire guns with his mind in the other.