Sam Neill

Sam Neill
Sam Neill

Neill at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival
Born Nigel John Dermot Neill
14 September 1947 (1947-09-14) (age 64)
Omagh, Northern Ireland, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 1975–present
Spouse Lisa Harrow (unknown – c. 1989; 1 child)
Noriko Watanabe (September 1989 – present; 1 child)

Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill, DCNZM, OBE (born 14 September 1947) is a New Zealand actor.[1] He is well known for his starring role as paleontologist Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III.

He has also had a number of high-profile roles including: the lead in Reilly, Ace of Spies, the adult Damien in Omen III: The Final Conflict, Merlin in the miniseries Merlin, Captain Vasily Borodin in The Hunt for Red October, Colonel Geofferey Brydon in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, and Alisdair Stewart in The Piano. Most recently he played Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in Showtime's, The Tudors.


Early life

Neill was born in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, the second son of Dermot Neill, a Harrow- and Sandhurst-educated army officer and third-generation New Zealander of Scottish ancestry, and his English wife Priscilla.[2] At the time of Neill's birth, his father was stationed in Northern Ireland, serving with the Irish Guards.[3] The family owned Neill and Co., the largest liquor retailers in New Zealand.

Neill returned with his family to New Zealand in 1954 where he attended the Anglican boys' boarding school Christ's College in Christchurch. He then went on to study English literature at the University of Canterbury where he had his first exposure to acting. While at Canterbury University he resided at College House[4] where he held the position of Chief Castigator and Crime Crusher (CCACC). He then moved to Wellington to continue his tertiary education at Victoria University from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.

In 2004 on Australian talk show Enough Rope, interviewer Andrew Denton briefly touched on the issue of Sam's "very bad" stuttering. It affected most of his childhood and as a result he was "hoping that people wouldn't talk to [him]" so he wouldn't have to answer back. He has mostly outgrown it, however he claims it can still be detected to this day.[5]

He first took to calling himself "Sam" at school in New Zealand where there were other Nigels and the name Nigel was "a little effete for ... a New Zealand playground".[5][6][7]

Acting career

Sam Neill at the premier of Daybreakers during the Toronto International Film Festival.

After working at the New Zealand National Film Unit as a director and actor Neill was cast as the lead in the New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs. Following this he appeared in the Australian classic, My Brilliant Career (1979), opposite Judy Davis.

This appearance led to his being selected to play Damien Thorn in Omen III: The Final Conflict in 1981 one of the sequels to The Omen. In the late 1970s, his mentor was the notable British actor James Mason. Neill was also one of the leading candidates to succeed Roger Moore in the role of James Bond but he lost out to Timothy Dalton.

Neill has played heroes and villains in a succession of film and television dramas and comedies. In the UK he became well-known in the early 1980s starring in dramas such as Ivanhoe (1982) and notably in the title role of Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983). Neill is known for his leading and co-starring roles in major films including Dead Calm (1989), La Révolution française (1989) playing the famous Marquis de Lafayette, The Hunt for Red October (1990), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), The Piano (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), Sirens (1994), Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1994), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Event Horizon (1997), Bicentennial Man (1999), The Dish (2000) and Jurassic Park III (2001).

The film Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) was written and directed by Sam Neill and Judy Rymer. In it Neill narrated his personal recollection of New Zealand film history.

In 1993, Neill co-starred with Anne Archer in Question of Faith, an independent drama based on a true story about one woman's fight to beat cancer and have a baby.

Neill was asked to play the role of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson but turned it down because of his contractual obligations to another Jurassic Park III (2001). He hosted and narrated a series of documentaries for BBC entitled Space (Hyperspace in the United States) in 2002.

In 2006, Neill recorded a series of radio adverts for Fifth Third Bank in the midwestern U.S.

Neill also appeared in Merlin (1998), a film based on the legend of King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake, portraying the legendary wizard. He also reprised his role as Merlin in the film Merlin's Apprentice (2006) in which Merlin learns he fathered a son with the Lady of the Lake.

Neill starred in the historical drama The Tudors on the Showtime Network playing Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. "I have to say I really enjoyed making The Tudors", Neill said,[8] “It was six months with a character that I found immensely intriguing, with a cast that I liked very much and with a story I found very compelling. It has elements that are hard to beat: revenge and betrayal, lust and treason, all the things that make for good stories."[8] Neill starred as Mr Jones in Under the Mountain and as Charles Bromley in Daybreakers.[9]

He also starred in an ABC TV production called Happy Town (2010) in which he played Merritt Grieves, a mysterious movie memorabilia shop proprietor. Neill has also been cast in the Fox TV production Alcatraz as the character, Emerson Hauser. He has joined the cast of a feature adaptation of the Arthur Miller play A View from the Bridge, scheduled to begin shooting in June 2011.[10]

Personal life

Neill resides in Queenstown, New Zealand and also has homes in Wellington, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. He has one son, Tim (born in 1983), by New Zealand actress Lisa Harrow, and one daughter, Elena (born in 1991),[11] by makeup artist Noriko Watanabe, whom he had married in 1989. He also has a stepdaughter Maiko Spencer (born 1981) who is from Noriko Watanabe's first marriage. He is a supporter of the Australian Speak Easy Association and the British Stammering Association (BSA). Neill also supports the Australian Labor Party, the New Zealand Labour Party,[12] Greenpeace, Oxfam and the World Wildlife Fund. He is a patron of the National Performance Conference and donated a pair of jeans to the Jeans for Genes auction; they were painted by artist Merv Moriarty and auctioned off in August 1998.

Neill's hobby is running a vineyard called the Two Paddocks winery in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island.[8] "I’d like the vineyard to support me but I’m afraid it is the other way round. It is not a very economic business," said Neill,[8] "It is a ridiculously time and money-consuming business. I would not do it if it was not so satisfying and fun: and it gets me pissed once in a while."[8]

Neill is friends with New Zealand musicians Neil Finn and Tim Finn, of Crowded House and Split Enz, and with Australian musician Jimmy Barnes.

Neill has been appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM). When knighthoods were returned to the New Zealand Honours System in 2009, those with DCNZM or higher honours were given the option of converting them into knighthoods. Neill chose not to do this, saying the title of Sir was "just far too grand, by far".[13]


Theatrical/Direct-to-video films

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Landfall Eric
Ashes Priest
1977 Sleeping Dogs Smith
1979 Just Out of Reach Mike
The Journalist Rex
My Brilliant Career Harry Beecham
1981 Omen III: The Final Conflict Damien Thorn
Possession Mark
From a Far Country Marian
1982 Ivanhoe Brian de Bois-Guilbert
Attack Force Z Sergeant D.J. (Danny) Costello
1983 Enigma Dimitri Vasilikov
1984 The Blood of Others Bergman
1985 Robbery Under Arms Capt. Starlight
Plenty Lazar
1986 For Love Alone James Quick
1987 The Good Wife Neville Gifford
1988 Evil Angels Michael Chamberlain
1989 Dead Calm John Ingram
La Révolution française Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette
1990 The Hunt for Red October Captain Vasili Borodin
Shadow of China TV reporter Credited as John Dermot
1991 Death in Brunswick Carl 'Cookie' Fitzgerald
Until the End of the World Eugene Fitzpatrick
1992 The Rainbow Warrior Alan Galbraith
Memoirs of an Invisible Man David Jenkins
Hostage John Rennie
1993 The Piano Alisdair Stewart
Jurassic Park Dr. Alan Grant
Sirens Norman Lindsay
1994 Country Life Dr. Max Askey
Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book Colonel Geofferey Brydon
In the Mouth of Madness John Trent
1995 Restoration King Charles II
1996 Children of the Revolution Nine
Victory Mr. Jones
1997 Event Horizon Dr. William Weir
1998 The Horse Whisperer Robert MacLean
Sweet Revenge Henry Bell
The Revengers' Comedies Robert MacLean
1999 Molokai Walter Murray Gibson
Bicentennial Man 'Sir' Richard Martin
2000 My Mother Frank Professor Mortlock
The Dish Cliff Buxton
The Magic Pudding Sam Sawnoff Voice
2001 Jurassic Park III Dr. Alan Grant
The Zookeeper Ludovic
2002 Dirty Deeds Ray
Leunig Animated Narrator
2003 Perfect Strangers The Man
Yes Anthony
2004 Wimbledon Dennis Bradbury
2005 Little Fish The Jockey
2006 Irresistible Craig
2007 Angel Théo
2008 Dean Spanley Dean Spanley
Skin Abraham Laing
2009 I Am You Mr. Reid
Under the Mountain Mr. Jones
Daybreakers Charles Bromley
2010 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Allomere Voice
2011 The Dragon Pearl Chris Chase
The Hunter
2012 The Vow Post-production
A View from the Bridge Pre-production


Award nominations

Emmy Awards
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for: "Merlin" (1998)
Golden Globe Awards
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for: "Merlin" (1998)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for: "One Against the Wind"
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for: "Reilly: Ace of Spies" (1983)

Personal quotes

"Of all the characters I've played, I think I have more in common with that guy than with Reilly: Ace of Spies referring to Carl Fitzgerald in Death in Brunswick.[14]

Referring to The Simpsons: "I'm playing a cat burglar. I've made it. This is the high point of my career. I'm really chuffed."[15]

"I got an Irish passport the other day. I love it. It's the best thing in my pocket."[16]

See also

  • List of celebrities who own wineries and vineyards


  1. ^ "New Zealand Actor Sam Neill Peddles Wine". The Washington Post. 30 January 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Beck, Chris (2 September 2004). "The interview". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Condon, Eileen (8 May 2001). "Dishy Sam's got space aspirations; For an actor fascinated by space travel Sam Neill must have thought he'd landed a dream role with his new movie The Dish. The Omagh-born actor talks to Eileen Condon about his latest role". The News Letter. Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  4. ^ Sarah Catherall (6 November 2005). "Study costs rising by degrees". Tertiary education news. NZ Herald. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Sam Neill". Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. ABC. Retrieved on 22 July 2010.
  6. ^ Erika Grams. "Sam Neill — FAQ". Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  7. ^ "Nigel, Neville??". 5 October 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d e The West. "A glorious romp through history" by Pam Brown. 5 February 2008.[dead link]
  9. ^ "Latest Daybreakers Clip Features Sam Neill". Dread Central. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  10. ^ Lodderhose, Diana (18 January 2010). "Farmiga, Wasikowska join 'Bridge'". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "Sam Neill — Family & Companions –". Yahoo!7 Movies. 10 January 1991. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  12. ^ "Sam Neil's Oamaru Speech". 
  13. ^ "Sir 'just far too grand' for Neill". Otago Daily Times. 1 Aug 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  14. ^ Who Weekly (New Zealand); 23 August 1993
  15. ^ Entertainment Weekly; 23 July 1993
  16. ^ The Irish Times, 13 December 2008

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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