Grieving Irish actor Liam Neeson paid tribute to the late Senator Edward Kennedy today and described how Kennedy sent him a "touching" letter of condolence when Neeson's wife Natasha died in March this year.

Neeson, who has met Kennedy on several occasions over the years said the Irish American senator sent a "very, very beautiful, touching condolence letter when Natasha died earlier this year."

"He was a special man. It's the end of an era, I'm sure."

Neeson said that like all Irish people, the Kennedys loomed large when he was growing up in Ballymena in Northern Ireland. "I have a very clear memory of being a 10-year-old boy and being taken to the ancestral Kennedy home in Ireland."

Neeson - whose new movie "Five Minutes of Heaven" - is based on the Troubles said Kennedy had been a "very influential" driving force in the peace process in North.

Neeson said his family was still trying to come to terms with Natahsha's death.

"To be honest, we're taking each day as it comes. I'm still getting extraordinary condolence letters from American people. It's deeply, deeply touching."

Liam said the reaction from Americans to his family's tragedy is one of the reasons he recently became a US citizen.

"I've been living here for 20 years and America has been very good to me," he said.