Liam Neeson, The Grey, Kate Beckinsale, Underworld Awakenings

Screengems; Kimberley French/Open Road Films

Liam Neeson and Kate Beckinsale are both in huge action movies right now. Does this officially mean that anyone can be an action star?
—Sixty B., via the inbox

Say that again. Liam Neeson is just waiting to beat you senseless with a dead wolf and then finish you off with an ice pick.

His upcoming man-vs.-lupine thriller, The Grey, along with a remake of The A-Team, the upcoming Battleship, the hit Taken and its sequel (now filming), mean that the man who played Oskar Schlinder is essentially an action star at least five times over.

Does that mean that Meryl Streep or Colin Firth is next?

Not necessarily. Yes, any star can do an action movie once. Seth Rogen did in Green Hornet. Vanessa Hudgens did in Sucker Punch. But you probably won't see them in a sequel to either of those, the kind of sequel that Neeson is getting with Taken, or Kate Beckinsale with these Underworld movies.


For the same reason why Paul Bettany doesn't have immediate plans to revisit his role as a priest who fights vampires who are actually aliens: the movies I cited above were not massive hits.

(Yes, Hornet did well internationally, but its early domestic performance discouraged suits from considering a sequel, at least, right away. Ergo, Rogen is not yet an action star; one action movie does not an action hero make. Sucker Punch made its money back internationally, but barely.)

Neeson's Taken, meanwhile, made pots of cash: It cost an estimated $25 million to make, earned all of that back in its first weekend, and went on to win $224 million around the world. Neeson himself has said that the only reason he got his new action movie, The Grey, is because of the success of Taken.

As for Beckinsale, her story is similar.

Her first Underworld installment earned almost all of its budget back in its first weekend and grossed more than double that over time. The movie became a franchise that won over fanboys and earned a nearly permanent spot at conventions like Comic-Con.

The jist of all this: Any actor can be an action star, as long as her or she makes money doing it.

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