Liam Neeson to portray ‘Japan Jesuit’

Actor confirmed for Scorsese project

Hollywood action star Liam Neeson is to swap ‘violence for vestments’ in his next starring role.

It has been confirmed that the Ballymena-born actor has landed the role of a Jesuit missionary in a screen adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence.

The story, to be directed by Martin Scorcese, follows the journey of a young Jesuit who is dispatched to 17th Century Japan to investigate his former mentor, Fr Father Ferreira (Neeson), who is rumoured to have lost his faith. The title of the source novel comes from the author’s examination of the apparent silence of God in the face of the persecution of Japan’s early Christian community.

Commenting on his role, Neeson said: "I was brought up quite a strict Irish Catholic, and I played a Jesuit in The Mission. So I have a little bit of experience, but there's certainly a wealth of research to do."

Neeson has in fact portrayed priests a number of times during his career. In 1985, he first played a priest when he starred in the Irish film Lamb. Barely a year later, he was cast as a Jesuit missionary in The Mission opposite Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro. As a guest on the Simpsons cartoon, Neeson voiced Fr Sean in one episode in 2005.