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Sam Neill

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Title: Sam Neill  
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Subject: Cinema of New Zealand, Power (production company), Cinema of Unease, Family Pictures, The Hunter (2011 Australian film)
Collection: 1947 Births, 20Th-Century New Zealand Male Actors, 21St-Century New Zealand Male Actors, Best Actor Aacta Award Winners, Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Living People, Male Film Actors from Northern Ireland, New Zealand Expatriates in Australia, New Zealand Male Film Actors, New Zealand People of English Descent, New Zealand People of Irish Descent, New Zealand Winemakers, Officers of the Order of the British Empire, People Educated at Christ's College, Canterbury, People from Omagh, People from Queenstown, New Zealand, University of Canterbury Alumni, Victoria University of Wellington Alumni
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Sam Neill

Sam Neill
Born Nigel John Dermot Neill
(1947-09-14) 14 September 1947
Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Nationality New Zealand, British
Education Christ's College, Canterbury
Alma mater University of Canterbury
Occupation Actor, voice actor
Years active 1975–present
Spouse(s) Lisa Harrow (19?? – c. 1989); 1 child
Noriko Watanabe (2 September 1989 – present); 1 child

Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill, DCNZM, OBE (born 14 September 1947) is an Irish-born New Zealand actor who first achieved leading roles in films such as Omen III: The Final Conflict and Dead Calm and on television in Reilly, Ace of Spies. He won a broad international audience in 1993 for his roles as Alisdair Stewart in The Piano and Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, a role he reprised in 2001's Jurassic Park III. Neill also had notable roles in Merlin, The Hunt for Red October, and The Tudors. He holds New Zealand, British and Irish nationality, but identifies primarily as a New Zealander.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Acting career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Film 4.1
    • Television 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

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

In 1954, Neill returned with his family to New Zealand, 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 university he lived at College House.[4] He then moved to Wellington to continue his tertiary education at Victoria University, where he graduated BA in English literature.

In 2004, on the Australian talk show Enough Rope, interviewer Andrew Denton briefly touched on the issue of Neill'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 would not have to answer back. He also stated, "I kind of outgrew it. I can still... you can still detect me as a stammerer."[5]

Neill first took to calling himself "Sam" at school 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 première of Daybreakers during the Toronto International Film Festival, 2009

After working at the New Zealand National Film Unit as a director, Neill was cast for the lead role in 1977 New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs. Following this he appeared in Australian romance My Brilliant Career (1979), opposite Judy Davis.

In the late 1970s, his mentor was James Mason. In 1981 he won his first big international role, as Damien Thorn, son of the devil, in Omen III: The Final Conflict; also in that year, he played an outstanding main role in Andrzej Zulawski's cult film Possession. Later, Neill was also one of the leading candidates to succeed Roger Moore in the role of James Bond, but lost out to Timothy Dalton. His Bond screen-test can be found on the special features of the The Living Daylights (1987) DVD.

Among his many Australian roles is playing Michael Chamberlain in Evil Angels (1988) (released as A Cry In The Dark outside of Australia and New Zealand)[8] about the case of Azaria Chamberlain.

Neill has played heroes and occasionally villains in a succession of film and television dramas and comedies. In the UK he won early fame, and was Golden-Globe nominated, after portraying real-life spy Sidney Reilly in mini-series Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983). His leading and co-starring roles in films include thriller Dead Calm (1989), two-part historical epic La Révolution française (1989)(as Marquis de Lafayette), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Jurassic Park (1993), Sirens (1994), Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1994), John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Event Horizon (1997), Bicentennial Man (1999), and comedy The Dish (2000).

Neill has also occasionally acted in New Zealand films, notably The Piano (1993), which marked the first time a woman director (Jane Campion) had won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. His other New Zealand features include Gaylene Preston's genre-crossing 'romance' Perfect Strangers, and a 2009 adaptation of science fiction tale Under the Mountain. Neill himself returned to directing in 1995 with documentary Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) which he wrote and directed with Judy Rymer. Made as part of a BFI series marking the centenary of cinema, the film saw Neill providing his own take on 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.

In 2002, he hosted and narrated a documentary series for the BBC entitled Space (Hyperspace in the United States).

Neill also portrayed the legendary wizard in Merlin (1998), a miniseries based on the legends of King Arthur. He reprised his role as Merlin in the sequel, 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, playing Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. "I have to say I really enjoyed making The Tudors", Neill said,[9] “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."[9]

He also acted in short-lived Fox TV series Alcatraz as Emerson Hauser. By May 2012, he was working on the fantasy adventure movie Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box[10] throughout the South West of England, playing the role of Otto Luger. The movie is scheduled for release in 2013. He is currently starring in the new BBC series; Peaky Blinders set in post World War I Birmingham. He plays the role of Chief Inspector Chester Campbell who has come to clean up the town on Churchill's orders.

Personal life

Neill lives in Queenstown and owns a winery called Two Paddocks, made up of a vineyard at Gibbston and two near Alexandra, all in the Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island.[11] He 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),[12] by makeup artist Noriko Watanabe, whom he married in 1989. He also has a stepdaughter, Maiko Spencer, (born 1982) who is from Noriko Watanabe's first marriage. He is a supporter of the Australian Speak Easy Association and the British Stammering Association (BSA). He also supports the New Zealand Labour Party[13] and the Australian Labor Party. 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 in August 1998.

Neill's hobby is running Two Paddocks. "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,[9] "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."[9]

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".[14]



Year Title Role Notes
1975 Landfall Eric
Ashes Priest
1977 Sleeping Dogs Smith
1979 Just Out of Reach Mike
Journalist, TheThe Journalist Rex
My Brilliant Career Harry Beecham
1981 Omen III: The Final Conflict Adult 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 Blood of Others, TheThe Blood of Others Bergman
The Country Girls Mr Gentleman
1985 Robbery Under Arms Captain Starlight
Plenty Lazar
1986 For Love Alone James Quick
1987 Good Wife, TheThe Good Wife Neville Gifford
1988 Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark)[8] Michael Chamberlain AACTA Award for Best Leading Actor
1989 Dead Calm John Ingram
Révolution française, LaLa Révolution française Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette
1990 Hunt for Red October, TheThe Hunt for Red October Captain Vasily Borodin
Shadow of China TV reporter Credited as John Dermot
1991 Death in Brunswick Carl 'Cookie' Fitzgerald Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Leading Actor
Until the End of the World Eugene Fitzpatrick
1992 Rainbow Warrior, TheThe Rainbow Warrior Alan Galbraith
Memoirs of an Invisible Man David Jenkins
Hostage John Rennie
1993 Piano, TheThe Piano Alisdair Stewart Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
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
Snow White: A Tale of Terror Lord Fredric Hoffman
1998 Horse Whisperer, TheThe Horse Whisperer Robert MacLean
Sweet Revenge Henry Bell
The Revengers' Comedies Henry Bell
1999 Molokai Walter Murray Gibson
Bicentennial Man 'Sir' Richard Martin
2000 My Mother Frank Professor Mortlock Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
Dish, TheThe Dish Cliff Buxton
The Magic Pudding Sam Sawnoff Voice role
2001 Jurassic Park III Dr. Alan Grant
Zookeeper, TheThe Zookeeper Ludovic Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
2002 Dirty Deeds Ray
Leunig Animated Narrator
2003 Perfect Strangers The Man
Yes Anthony
2004 Wimbledon Dennis Bradbury
2005 Gallipoli Narrator Voice role
Little Fish The Jockey
2006 Irresistible Craig
2007 Angel Théo
2008 Dean Spanley Dean Spanley
Skin Abraham Laing
2009 In Her Skin Mr. Reid
Iron Road Alfred Nichol
Under the Mountain Mr. Jones
Daybreakers Charles Bromley
2010 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Allomere Voice role
2011 The Dragon Pearl Chris Chase
Hunter, TheThe Hunter Jack Mindy Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
2012 Vow, TheThe Vow Bill Thornton
2013 Escape Plan Dr. Kyrie
The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box Otto Luger
2014 United Passions João Havelange
A Long Way Down Jess's father


Year Title Role Notes
1982 Ivanhoe Brian de Bois-Guilbert
1983 Reilly, Ace of Spies Sidney Reilly 12 episodes
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
1985 Kane and Abel William Lowell Kane
1987 Amerika Colonel Andrei Denisov
1991 One Against the Wind Sergeant James Liggett
1993 Family Pictures David Eberlin
1994 The Simpsons Malloy Voice role
Episode: "Homer the Vigilante"
1995 Forgotten Silver Himself
1996 In Cold Blood Agent Alvin Dewey
1998 Merlin Merlin Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
The Games Citytrans CEO Episode: "Transport"
2000 Sally Hemings: An American Scandal Thomas Jefferson
2001 Submerged Lt. Cmdr. Charles B. 'Swede' Momsen
2002 Doctor Zhivago Victor Komarovsky
Framed Eddie Meyers
2004 Stiff Lionel Merricks
Jessica Richard Runche Logie Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama
2005 The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant Governor Arthur Phillip 2 episodes
To the Ends of the Earth Mr. Prettiman 3 episodes
The Triangle Eric Benerall 3 episodes
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television
2006 Merlin's Apprentice Merlin
Two Twisted Mick Episode: "Von Stauffenberg's Stamp"
2007 The Tudors Cardinal Thomas Wolsey 10 episodes
Nominated—Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama Series
Nominated—Monte-Carlo Television Festival Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
2008–2010 Crusoe Jeremiah Blackthorn 14 episodes
2009 Happy Town Merritt Grieves 8 episodes
2010 Rake Dr Bruce Chandler Episode: "R vs Chandler"
2011 Ice Anthony Kavanagh
2012 Alcatraz Emerson Hauser 13 episodes
2013-2014 Peaky Blinders C.I. Campbell 12 episodes
Harry Jim “Stocks” Stockton
2014 Old School Ted Macabe

See also


  1. ^ Interview, Radio Times, 11–17 October 2014
  2. ^ Beck, Chris (2 September 2004). "The interview". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Condon, Eileen (8 May 2001). . The Omagh-born actor talks to Eileen Condon about his latest role"The Dish"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 film, . 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. Australia. 7 June 2004. ABC. Retrieved 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 "A Cry in the Dark (1988) - Release dates". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d The West. "A glorious romp through history" by Pam Brown. 5 February 2008.
  10. ^ Adam Dawtrey (11 April 2012). Aneurin Barnard tapped for ‘Mariah Mundi’. Variety Article. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  11. ^ Two Paddocks vineyard
  12. ^ "Sam Neill — Family & Companions –". Yahoo!7 Movies. 10 January 1991. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  13. ^ "Sam Neil's Oamaru Speech". 
  14. ^ "Sir 'just far too grand' for Neill". Otago Daily Times. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 

External links

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