Neeson withdraws from Exorcist film

Liam Neeson has finally had to withdraw from the ill-fated Exorcist - The Beginning, a film dogged by delays and directorial changes.

The Ballymena-born actor was down to play the priestly role in a prequel to the horror classic but the timing clashed with his next scheduled film, Love Actually. He will be replaced on Exorcist by Swedish star Stellan Skarsgard.

Neeson will line up alongside Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Rowan Atkinson and Martine McCutcheon in the all-star Love Actually.

Meanwhile, Neeson has joined K-19: The Widowmaker co-star Harrison Ford in defending the submarine drama against a crew of Russian sailors.

The film is the 'true' story of a Soviet nuclear sub facing meltdown, and at the recent Venice Film Festival he and Ford hit back at scoffers at the film's indifferent Stateside opening - it cost $75m (€75.4m) but has brought home only $34m (€32.2m) thus far.

"I don't consider the Box Office to be a true measure of the film - it's wrong to say it's a failure," he said.

"I'm very proud of this film, so, to be honest, the Box Office doesn't enter into it."

Several members of the K's crew complained about the film to the festival organisers, but Neeson commented: "There has to be some dramatic license."

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