05/03/1993 at 01:00 AM EDT
Not since Brando tossed meat up to Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire has flesh made such a spectacular entrance," wrote over-whelmed reviewer John Lahr in The New Yorker of Liam Neeson's Broadway debut in Anna Christie last January. Clearly, the charismatic 6'4" Irishman has a flair to remember. "He can change the whole climate of a room when he walks in," enthuses Patricia Arquette, who starred with Neeson in the recent film Ethan Frome. Indeed. His ruggedly handsome face and Celtic charm have won over a platoon of comely celebs, among them Julia Roberts
, Jennifer Grey, Sinead O'Connor, Brooke Shields
, Barbra Streisand and, currently, his Broadway costar Natasha Richardson, who is separated from her husband of 2½ years, British producer Robert Fox. "He's so attractive, such a powerful presence that it makes it very easy to fall in love with him," she says.
At 40, Neeson, a veteran of 27 movies, is finally hitting his leading man stride: He was party to a tragic love affair in Ethan Frome, comforted Mia Farrow in Husbands and Wives and is now filming the title role in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, about a Nazi Party member who saved 1,300 Jews from extermination. Neeson grew up in Northern Ireland, the son of a janitor and a cook, but now lives happily in the Hollywood Hills. Though warming to media attention, he remains testy about his Casanovan reputation. "Is this what it's going to say on my tombstone," he once groused. " 'He dated Julia Roberts
and Barbra Streisand'?" It may be hard work, Liam, but someone's got to do it.