At 6ft 4in, when Liam Neeson walks into a hotel room you notice him.
For all the Ballymena twinkle in his blue eyes and the soft rumbling brogue he has never lost in spite of his years living in New York, he is still a formidable presence, a man you would think twice about crossing.
No wonder he was so convincing as the desperate dad tracking down the Albanian human traffickers who abducted his daughter in his latest film, Taken 2.
He was like an emotionally-driven CIA-trained Exocet, compensating for years of absence as a parent by racing to her rescue, making good on his promise to kill her kidnappers.
“He’s a dad, he’s not a superhero,” he says of Bryan Mills.
“He’s led a very strange, covert, secretive life and has missed out on his child’s upbringing. He’s desperately trying to make up for that time, and failing.
“The way most fathers feel, I think.”
For most dads it is the office rather than special ops that might have lead them to miss their children’s milestones.
As a father of two sons with his late wife Natasha Richardson, Liam says he could empathise with Bryan’s actions.
“You know these stories. If a mother’s child is in danger, she can literally lift a car if the child is pinned. I totally believe that.
“You’d do anything for your kids, though I draw the line at shooting people.”
The first Taken reinvented Neeson – then is his mid-50s and best known for more sombre, character-driven dramas such as Schindler’s List and Michael Collins, or playing God-like creatures such as the voice of Aslan in the Narnia chronicles and the Kraken-siccing Zeus in Clash of the Titans – as an action hero.
The former amateur boxer said he relished the chance to “do all this physical stuff”.
“I have a theory with the first Taken – the world was turned upside down financially, we had a crisis. Our elected leaders, the so-called pillars of society, bankers and managers were shafting us, and everybody felt vulnerable and scared and nervous.
“When you feel that, you seek entertainment. Expendables didn’t come out then, but Taken, and I’m sure there were a couple of others, with someone who’s not going to call a figure of authority if he’s in trouble, he’s going to do something about it himself – I think it gave people a real guilty pleasure ‘Yes, I wish I could do that!’.”
It is lucky then that Fred the Shred from RBS didn’t encounter an impassioned Liam as the star has probably picked up a few nifty tricks from his expert advisors.
“There’s a guy who’s my mentor, he trained me in a fight a few years ago in weapons, and he is a special operatives soldier, actively going into Afghanistan at various times, going into Uzbekistan.
“I don’t see him for a couple of weeks, then he’ll call me “Hi, fancy a drink?” and he’s bandaged here, or he’s bandaged there, but he can’t talk about what he’s done, other than give you broad, broad outlines.
“If he walked down the street you wouldn’t pick him out in a crowd. But the stuff he gets up to, breathtaking.”
Liam celebrated his 60th birthday this year. However, there were few allowances for age in the running battles of Taken 2.
“I keep pretty fit as a rule,” says Liam.
“There were a few more push-ups and sit-ups in the morning and a considerable amount of fight choreography. Every day after we wrapped filming we’d go back to the hotel and work on our fights.”
He admits he was feeling every bit of his eligibility for a free bus pass after some gruelling smackdowns with his co-stars.
But, like a good method actor, he was able to use that to add realism to his portrayal.
“It starts to hurt. The knees creak a bit more. By the end of the film we can use that to show two people getting tired.
“It’s not superhero stuff, it’s ugly.”
He was tempted to do the first Taken because it was written by Luc Besson, a filmmaker he admired, and it was being shot in Paris. The sequel was set in the narrow streets and alleys of Istanbul, which added an unexpected frisson of danger to the film making.
“A lot of the streets we shot in were thousands of years old and as wide as this room, with shops on either side and merchants selling their wares.
“You’re doing a car chase at 50, 60mph, with people going ‘No, no, no. I’m not closing my shop. You do your movie, I sell my wares’, crossing the road all the time.
“Nobody was hurt but it added an exoticism. The extras weren’t from central casting, they were real people.”
Taken 2 gave him a chance to make another of his portentous phone calls, outlining the situation and what he is going to do about it while simultaneously warning his enemies that very bad things are about to happen to them.
They are they type of lines that can follow an actor round. “My sons’ friends say ‘could you leave a message on my iPhone’ that’s happened a few times,” he admits.
“But in the street it’s usually “Hey! Release the Kraken!”