Born in Northern Ireland, UK, Neeson worked as a forklift operator for Guinness, truck driver, assistant architect and an amateur boxer. He had originally sought a career as a teacher by attending St. Mary's Teaching College in Belfast. However, in 1976, Neeson joined the Belfast Lyric Players' Theater and made his professional acting debut in the play "The Risen People". After two years, Neeson moved to Dublin's Abbey Theater where he performed the classics. It was here that he was spotted by director John Boorman and was cast in the film Excalibur (1981), which dealt with the Arthurian legend. From there, he acted in a number of average films and Television Mini-series until he gained notice for his role as the mute in Suspect (1987). Neeson did not play the lead in a movie until he appeared in Darkman (1990). Good performances in Leap of Faith (1992) and Husbands and Wives (1992) led to Neeson being picked for the role of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993). For this role, Neeson was nominated for the Academy Award and the Golden Globe. In 1993, he made his Broadway debut in "Anna Christie" in which he co-starred with Natasha Richardson. For his role in this play, Neeson was nominated for a Tony. When he returned to the big screen, Neeson again co-starred with Richardson in the Jodie Foster movie Nell (1994). In the next 2 years, Neeson played characters close to his roots when he was the eighteenth century Scottish Highlander Rob Roy (1995) and the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins (1996). He was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in her 1999 New Year's Honours List.