Liam and Ciaran in New York state of mind this Christmas
IT is a friendship that was established decades ago, and the bond between Ciaran Hinds and Liam Neeson is still as strong as ever.
Tomorrow, the boys from Belfast and Ballymena will share what will be a decade of Christmases together.
And Hollywood stars they may be, but it seems no amount of fame can break a longstanding tradition of old comrades.
Belfast-born Hinds says their families savour the custom that has, over the years, seen them reunite in the snow-flecked surroundings in upstate New York.
"It's what we've been doing every second year for the last 20 nearly -- we've been close friends for a long time, and it's a nice balance.
"It's very chilled out and relaxed, enjoying each other's company and eating a lot of good food. We all muck in with the cooking; there is a controller, of course, but I'm the sous-chef," he says.
For Hinds, it will be a brief Christmas, as he's due back on stage at the Altantic Theatre in New York in on December 26.
The 60-year-old is currently Stateside in the midst of a 10-week run with Conor McPherson's 'The Night Alive', which premiered at London's West End last summer and has become a raging success.
Having worked alongside some of the world's biggest directors, including Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, Joel Schumacher and Sam Mendes, Hinds's career has come quite a distance over three decades in the business.
While theatre is where he garnered his initial experience, a movie career kicked off with a small role in John Boorman's 1981 film 'Excalibur'.
A decade later he came to wider prominence, playing one of the feuding brothers in the film adaptation of Sam Hanna Bell's 'December Bride'.
A self-professed "busker" when it comes to work, he is a firm believer that the cut-throat world that is Hollywood is just part of the game.
"You always have to understand, they retire you. I think as actors, we're always waiting to be rumbled and found out. It wouldn't surprise me if suddenly the phone didn't ring and 'they' moved on.
"I never actually had a game plan or set out points of what I wanted to hit, I think that's why my career worked out."
Asked if being Irish helps, he says: "To be honest, there are so many people here with Irish connection or extraction, that you're really just a number."
Nonetheless, Hinds still savours the home sentiment of traditional music and has found a substitute in New York.
"I've been spending my Sundays pottering down to a small pub to hear the music; it's a good way to let off steam.
"I think that it is all very deep in my psyche. And I'm definitely Irish; there's no doubt about that."
Hinds has worked on stage in New York on several occasions throughout his career, and five times with McPherson.
For Hinds, working with McPherson is "an endless experiment" -- and one never worth missing out on.
"There's something about how he writes, he touches people deeply. He's always been hugely respected over here in the US, too, so you get a feeling that American audiences are very anxious to see this play."
So while the actor's wife Helene Patarot and their daughter Aoife enjoy the festive season, Hinds will rejoin his castmates Brian Gleeson, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Michael McElhatton and Jim Norton off Broadway.
He added: "To even be asked by Conor to get involved was an honour.
"There's a sense of loyalty, or maybe he feels sorry for me and wants to give me another shot, but even to just be invited by a man of his stature is fantastic, and you wish to do well by him and his work."