Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of The Taken Franchise

Released in 2008, the Pierre Morel-directed action movie "Taken" follows former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) as he travels to France to track down and rescue his daughter (Maggie Grace) after she is kidnapped by human traffickers. The French action film was so successful that it spawned two sequels, and while none of the films were critical darlings, the trilogy has grossed over $930 million worldwide and even spawned a prequel television series that ran for two seasons on NBC. The movies also established Neeson as a certified action star, and he's now starred in many different "Taken"-style films since 2008.

Each of the "Taken" films is pretty straightforward, but there are still several behind-the-scenes secrets that went into the making of these movies. Not only that, but the films have also had an impact on fans and some of the actors after they were released. Here are some untold truths that you might not have known about the "Taken" franchise.

Liam Neeson wasn't confident in Taken

On a budget of only $25 million, the original "Taken" film made $145 million in the United States alone. Combine that with an international gross of $81 million and you have a solid total of $226 million at the box office. The numbers were good, but Liam Neeson didn't think that the film would be very successful. In fact, he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that the success of "Taken" was "an accident."

Neeson said that he thought the film would go straight to video and that he only took the job because he thought it would be a nice change of pace for him. "I read [it] and just thought, 'This would be great; just hang out with stuntmen every day and beat guys up,'" he told Entertainment Weekly. Obviously, the films had a much bigger impact on Neeson than he initially thought.

"I had no idea that it would lead onto other films and other action scripts," he told Entertainment Weekly. "They started sending me action scripts, and you'd see 'Leading man, age 37' crossed out and 'late 40s, early 50s' written in instead." Audiences might know him more for his action films than anything else now. (Well, that, and his role as Qui-Gon Jinn in the "Star Wars" franchise.) And while the "Taken" films might not be groundbreaking, they deserve better than a straight-to-video release.

Neeson almost didn't get the part ... twice

Perhaps the funniest thing about Liam Neeson's involvement in the "Taken" franchise is that he wasn't originally supposed to be the lead. Jeff Bridges was originally cast in the lead role before he had to drop out, and Neeson took over (per Den of Geek). Bridges is an exceptional actor (he did win an Academy Award, after all), but Neeson's portrayal of Bryan Mills has reached iconic pop culture status. It's hard to think of anyone else delivering the "particular set of skills" speech the way Neeson did. Bridges eventually got his own retired CIA role as Dan Chase in FX's "The Old Man" in 2022 (per Thrillist).

When it came to "Taken 2," Deadline reported Neeson almost didn't come back for the sequel due to scheduling conflicts. There was a long list of actors who could've replaced Neeson that included the likes of Ray Winstone, Jason Isaacs, and Mickey Rourke. Fortunately, the conflicts were resolved, and the actor returned to the franchise.

Neeson was sure a third film wouldn't happen

Olivier Megaton's "Taken 2" flips the script on the premise of the first film while still trying to retain what made the original a hit. The father of one of the men Bryan Mills killed in the first film is out for revenge and decides to go after both Bryan and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), directly by capturing them instead. With Bryan captured, his daughter, Maggie, has to save them. Much like in the first film, once freed, Bryan quickly takes care of his enemies, and his family is saved again. When it comes to a premise like this, there's only so much you can do.

That's why Neeson was certain the second film would be the end. While promoting the film with Collider, he even joked about a third, saying, "I mean, how many times can she be taken? I mean, it's bad parenthood, really, after that." He also, ironically, scoffed at the idea of a TV series, saying, "I don't think so. There's enough of those shows, aren't there?"

Eventually, "Taken 3" came out two years later and centered around a revenge story instead of a kidnapping. The TV series premiered three years after that, in 2017.

Neeson was trained by the best in the business

Across all three "Taken" films, Neeson does all his own fighting, from hand-to-hand combat to shootouts (per the Daily Mail). The stuff that Bryan Mills does can get very intense at times, but luckily there were people behind the scenes to help the more complicated stunt sequences look as good as possible. One of those people was Mick Gould, the film's technical advisor and combat specialist. As a former member of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, Gould made the transition to Hollywood when he began working on action movies.

In addition to the original "Taken" film, where he helped train Neeson in combat and gunplay and break down the fight scenes, Gould has had behind-the-scenes positions on other films. Gould was the combat specialist for "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and a stunt coordinator for "The Equalizer 2," as well as a technical weapons trainer for many of Michael Mann's films, including "Heat," "Collateral," "Blackhat," and "Public Enemies."

For "Taken," Gould of course worked alongside a bevy of stunt performers, including stunt coordinator Mark Vanselow. Vanselow began as a stunt double for Neeson before rising the ranks to plan fight scenes and train the actor for films including "Taken," "The Commuter," and "The Ice Road" (per Men's Journal).

Taken negatively affected European tourism

Bryan Mills' daughter, Kim, was traveling with her best friend Amanda before the two were taken by traffickers. It's a pretty scary scenario to have your family member kidnapped in a foreign country and you might never see them again — the film actually made people scared to travel to Europe for the fear that something similar would happen to them. According to Liam Neeson, fans of "Taken" have reached out to him and said that the film's frightening depiction of human trafficking inspired them not to travel internationally (per The Hollywood Reporter).

Neeson described a letter he received from a teacher about how a Texas school trip to Europe got canceled because parents who had seen "Taken 2" didn't want to risk the events of the film happening to their children. This was one of the reasons why he insisted that "Taken 3" not be about someone being kidnapped, as he felt that keeping the same premise would be "insulting to an audience" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Someone pretended the film was based on their life

In 2011, a man named William G. Hillar was arrested and convicted of fraud after it was discovered that he lied about his prior military service. Hillar exaggerated and invented claims of working for the United States government internationally when he was actually a low-ranking member of the Coast Guard from 1962 to 1970. He claimed to be knowledgable about "counterterrorism, emergency medicine, human trafficking [and] psychological warfare," and his lies netted him at least $171,415 total across multiple speaking engagements, but an investigation into his claims at one of his events did him in. One of those claims was that his daughter was kidnapped, sold into sex slavery, and killed. He claims that his "story" served as the inspiration for "Taken." He was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

In reality, the series creator, as well as the head of the series' production company, EuropaCorp S.A., Luc Besson, pitched the idea to director Pierre Morel over dinner. Besson then collaborated on the screenplay with Robert Mark Kamen, who had written "The Karate Kid" and co-written "Lethal Weapon 3." And the "Taken" franchise was born.

The film inspired multiple Taken parodies

Since "Taken" was an instantly iconic film, it was obvious that there were going to be some parodies of it. For example, there is the Family Guy episode "Leggo My Meg-O," in which Meg Griffin (Mila Kunis) is kidnapped on a trip to Paris and her family members Brian and Stewie (both Seth MacFarlane) take it upon themselves to track her down. The episode follows the plot of the movie pretty thoroughly, with one of the only major differences being that Meg wasn't actually going to be sold as a sex slave in the end. MacFarlane has also parodied the "Taken" speech himself as Kermit the Frog in "Family Guy" and on "The Graham Norton Show."

There's also the 2015 film "Tooken," a little-seen live-action parody. This film also follows the exact plot of the original and even steals some of the characters' names. There is only one official (negative) review for the film on Rotten Tomatoes, but considering the quality of other parody films in the genre, it's safe to assume the film isn't very good.

If you're looking for an even better "Taken" parody, Jimmy Kimmel created a spoof trailer for "Taken 4," shortly after the third film's release, for "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Bryan Mills has confronted teddy bears and Vladimir Putin

Bryan Mills and his "particular set of skills" speech has become an internet meme thanks to Liam Neeson's cold and calculated delivery. It's become so memeworthy that the actor has made cameos and appearances where he "becomes" Bryan Mills for the sake of comedy. There's his 2015 "Clash of Clans" Super Bowl commercial where he angrily taunts another player on his phone, and his cameo in Seth MacFarlane's "Ted 2," where he intensely attempts to buy a box of Trix cereal and asks the talking teddy bear (MacFarlane) if he will get in trouble for purchasing a children's cereal.

One of the best cameos came from a guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in 2014 where he appeared alongside former President Barack Obama (portrayed by then-cast member Jay Pharoah) to address Vladimir Putin about the crisis in Ukraine, a conflict that is still going on today.

It seems that no matter what the scenario, Bryan Mills is on the job.