They met at Columbia College as professor and student. Now they have a hit movie starring Liam Neeson.

You could say Chris Charles made the most out of Columbia College’s Screenwriting II course. Not only did he ace the class — he formed a partnership with his professor, Danny Kravitz, and they cowrote the screenplay for the Liam Neeson movie “The Marksman.”

Neeson plays an Arizona rancher and former U.S. Marine who tries to get a boy (newcomer Jacob Perez) to safety in Chicago while being pursued by Mexican cartel assassins. The modern Western — which is set to hit digital platforms Tuesday — represents years of collaboration between Kravitz and Charles, who met in course No. 24-2710 in the spring of 2005.

“I was a very young professor, and I had just started teaching. Chris distinguished himself very early on. I thought he was an excellent, excellent student, creative person, all of the above,” Kravitz told the Tribune by phone.

Charles graduated in 2007 and became interested in conflicts along the southern U.S. border. His research would eventually inspire “The Marksman.”

“I was just really fascinated by that region and the possibilities down there. So I presented a rough idea to Danny, which he initially hated. But I continued to try to convince him, and we started talking about the different character ideas and story lines,” Charles said. “Really, when we discovered the characters of Jim (Neeson) and Miguel (Jacob), we fell in love with them. Both of us just knew we had to write this story.”

“I didn’t hate it, obviously, but it was rough,” Kravitz said as Charles laughed.

“The story was first conceived back in 2009. We worked on it on and off over the years and did a lot of dances with top Hollywood directors and actors over the years. It was quite a process,” said Charles, a co-founder of Throughline Films, a producer representation firm that secures distribution for projects. “One day you think you have an A-lister attached, and the next day, there’s a scheduling conflict. And now you’re submitting to someone else. So it was a bit of a roller coaster, but we always knew that the project was special. We knew in our heart of hearts that it would get made.”

The thriller gained steam when Robert Lorenz (”Trouble with the Curve”) signed on as director, producer and co-writer, and Neeson boarded as lead. The movie was shot in the fall of 2019 in New Mexico and Ohio, which represented Chicago.

Kravitz, who continues to teach at Columbia, and Charles, who was born in Arlington Heights, said much care was taken to make the Cleveland area look and feel like Chicago. Neeson’s character discusses the proper way to dress a Chicago hot dog (”no ketchup ... mustard, pickles, that sort of thing”). There’s a glimpse of a neighborhood hot dog cart, which is very popular in fictional Chicago but less so on real city streets.

“The hot dog scene was actually a nice little touch from our director, Rob, who of course has deep Chicago ties as well and knows the power of the Chicago hot dog,” Charles said. Lorenz grew up in Rolling Meadows and attended Fremd High School in Palatine.

Chicago authenticity aside, “The Marksman” has garnered a positive response from viewers. It has an 84% audience score on the Rotten Tomatoes site as of press time. The movie has pulled in more than $22 million worldwide, according to the online database Box Office Mojo, and surprised industry watchers by ousting “Wonder Woman 1984″ from the top U.S. box office spot when it bowed in January.

“The Marksman” premiered when many U.S. theaters were closed and others were not operating at full capacity due to coronavirus restrictions. Charles and Kravitz are looking forward to more people seeing their movie as pandemic rules for theaters ease — it’s still playing in the Chicago area — and it’s released on DVD and Blu-ray May 11.

“As the capacity limitations changed and as more theaters began opening, the film has just kept finding new audiences. And we are super excited about the upcoming home entertainment release, when we feel it will find the majority of its audience,” Charles said.

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