The Taken franchise may have grabbed hold of Liam Neeson and not let him go, but don't feel too bad for the 61-year-old actor, even if you think he can make better movies: Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr. reported last night that Neeeson will pull in around $20 million for the third installment. It's just the latest case of an actor having a late-career revival that brings in the big bucks for some serious butt-kicking.
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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Neeson only got paid in the $1 million range for the first Taken in 2008, wherein he starred as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills tasked with rescuing his teenage daughter. Neeson was, according to Fleming, reluctant to sign on board for the first sequel, but $15 million wooed him. The sequel made an worldwide gross of around $376 million, besting the $226 million gross of the first, despite getting weaker reviews. Taken is at 58-percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Taken 2 is at 21-percent fresh. "But when the sequel does better than the original at the box office, and doesn't cost that much more, of course they will try for the trifecta," Fleming wrote. "The key has been getting Neeson. Remarkable that the former boxer will make more money than he has ever in his long career, and that he has grown into one of the most bankable action stars in the business."
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But Neeson is certainly not alone in making the big bucks off late-in-life blockbusters. Perhaps the patron saint of these folks is Robert Downey Jr., who just signed on for two more Avengers films with what is likely an exorbitant payday. Ethan Hawke appears susceptible to Hollywood's version of SARS (Sellout Aging Raging Star disease), too, getting in the game with The Purge, which is even more surprisingly given his penchant for indie films. Hawke did make the horror film for very little money, but he made a deal that signs him up for a share of the profits. It was such as surprise hit early this month that Tatiana Siegel of The Hollywood Reporter explained "a source says it will far exceed his typical quote." The figure, she reported, is "in the mid-seven figures." While it's unclear whether Hawke will continue down this money making path (spoiler: his character dies at the end of The Purge), Neeson is in it for good. Now the Mills family just needs to keep finding really scary kidnapping trouble.