IN 2008 Liam Neeson introduced audiences to Bryan Mills, a man with a very particular set of skills, skills he acquired over a very long career.
Skills that made him a nightmare for anyone kidnapping his daughter.
The movie was Taken and, while Neeson didn’t realise it at the time, he’d kicked off a franchise that’s spawned two sequels and a TV series.
And yet it could have all been very, very different – here are 10 things you never knew about Taken.
10. Taken originally starred someone else
Writer and producer Luc Besson first cast Jeff Bridges in the role of Mills. When Bridges dropped out of the project Liam Neeson was approached.
Eager to take on a more physically demanded role, the Northern Irishman said yes.
9. The creator of The Karate Kid wrote the script
Though Luc Besson came up with the idea for the film over dinner with friend and director Pierre Morel, he actually co-wrote the finished draft with Robert Mark Kamen.
A long-time Besson collaborator, Kamen is also the writer and creator of the 80s teen martial arts classic The Karate Kid.
8. Liam Neeson thought it would flop
Neeson took up the role because of the opportunity it offered to spend four months living in Paris, learning martial arts.
“I wanted to do more physical stuff,” he told GQ. “I really thought it would be kind of a little side road from my so-called career.
“Really thought it would go straight to video. But it just got great word of mouth. I was stunned.”
7. Bryan Mills was trained by the very best
The Northern Irishman perfected his knife-wielding skills and general weapons training under the tutelage of former Special Air Service solder and advanced training specialist Mick Gould.
A former operator and instructor for an HM Government Intelligence unit, Gould had previously trained actors on movies like Heat, Collateral, and Ronin.
6. The franchise has put Americans off visiting Europe
During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Neeson revealed the Taken is partly to blame for Americans’ fear of international travel.
“Just the other day I got a letter from a school teacher in Texas who had tried to take 60 students to Europe and the families of 40 of them got the kids out of it because they had seen Taken 2,” he said.
“And then this year she wanted to take 20 of them and the parents all said, ‘No because we’ve seen that movie!'”
5. Famke Janssen was inspired to take action
The film’s plot, in which Mills’ daughter is kidnapped and sold into sex trafficking actually inspired Neeson’s co-star, Famke Janssen to take action.
Janssen, who plays Mills’ ex-wife Lenore, now serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office against drugs and crime.
4. Bryan Mills kills a lot of people
All told, Mills kills a whopping 31 people in the first Taken film.
Over the film’s 90-minute run time, that works out at just over one kill every three minutes.
3. The critics hated Taken
Despite gaining widespread approval from audiences, Taken was slammed by the critics upon release.
“It’s fun for about 15 minutes seeing Neeson do James Bond as Daddy Dangerous. But the surprise wears off quickly,” Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote.
Anthony Lane in the New Yorker concurred: “[Neeson’s] performance is the most perturbing thing in the film, even more so than its electrical-torture sequence or its revelations about sex-trafficking.”
Rex Reed in The Observer offered the most scathing critique though: “Taken is the kind of exploitative junk everyone expects from no-talent French hack Luc Besson.” Ouch.
2. There was a real-life Bryan Mills
William Hillar spent years working in the military and private sector training agents in counter-terrorism and other forms of international crime prevention.
From 1998, 2010, he earned around $171,415 thanks to his “very specific set of skills” as a former Green Beret colonel and lecturer in security issues to the FBI.
He even claimed to have been the inspiration for Mills’ character in Taken, telling people his daughter was also kidnapped and sold into trafficking, where she eventually died.
But it was all a lie. An FBI affidavit filed in Maryland US District Court revealed Hillar’s only military experience had come during a short stint in the US Coast Guard.
He was never awarded a post-secondary degree from the University of Oregon either, while his daughter never existed.
Hillar was eventually rumbled by the authorities and, after a court appearance, was sentenced to 500 hours community service and ordered to repay the $171,000.
1. Taken went by many names
Taken went by several different names across Europe. In Germany, the first movie was released under the title 96 hours while in Russia it was called The Hostage (Заложница).
In Spain, Taken’s title translates as Revenge (Venganza) while in Latin America it’s Implacable Search (Búsqueda Implacable).
The best-translated title comes from Italy though, where the film goes by the name I Will Find you (Io vi troverò).
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.