Sam Neill

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Sam Neill
BornNigel John Dermot Neill
(1947-09-14) 14 September 1947 (age 66)
Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
NationalityBritish, New Zealand
EducationChrist's College, Canterbury
Alma materUniversity of Canterbury
OccupationActor, voice actor
Years active1975–present
Spouse(s)Lisa Harrow (19?? – c. 1989); 1 child
Noriko Watanabe (2 September 1989 – present); 1 child
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Sam Neill
BornNigel John Dermot Neill
(1947-09-14) 14 September 1947 (age 66)
Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
NationalityBritish, New Zealand
EducationChrist's College, Canterbury
Alma materUniversity of Canterbury
OccupationActor, voice actor
Years active1975–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 a Northern 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 the 1993 film 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.

Early life[edit]

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).[1] At the time of Neill's birth, his father was stationed in Northern Ireland, serving with the Irish Guards.[2] 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.[3] 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 has mostly outgrown it, but claims it can still be detected to this day.[4]

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".[4][5][6]

Acting career[edit]

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)[7] 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,[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]

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[9] 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[edit]

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.[10] 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),[11] 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[12] 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,[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.[citation needed]

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]



1977Sleeping DogsSmith
1979Just Out of ReachMike
Journalist, TheThe JournalistRex
My Brilliant CareerHarry Beecham
1981Omen III: The Final ConflictAdult Damien Thornvoice
From a Far CountryMarian
1982IvanhoeBrian de Bois-Guilbert
Attack Force ZSergeant D.J. (Danny) Costello
1983EnigmaDimitri Vasilikov
1984Blood of Others, TheThe Blood of OthersBergman
1985Robbery Under ArmsCaptain Starlight
1986For Love AloneJames Quick
1987Good Wife, TheThe Good WifeNeville Gifford
1988Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark)[7]Michael ChamberlainAACTA Award for Best Leading Actor
1989Dead CalmJohn Ingram
Révolution française, LaLa Révolution françaiseGilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette
1990Hunt for Red October, TheThe Hunt for Red OctoberCaptain Vasily Borodin
Shadow of ChinaTV reporterCredited as John Dermot
1991Death in BrunswickCarl 'Cookie' FitzgeraldNominated - AACTA Award for Best Leading Actor
Until the End of the WorldEugene Fitzpatrick
1992Rainbow Warrior, TheThe Rainbow WarriorAlan Galbraith
Memoirs of an Invisible ManDavid Jenkins
HostageJohn Rennie
1993Piano, TheThe PianoAlisdair StewartNominated - AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
Jurassic ParkDr. Alan Grant
SirensNorman Lindsay
1994Country LifeDr. Max Askey
Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle BookColonel Geofferey Brydon
In the Mouth of MadnessJohn Trent
1995RestorationKing Charles II
1996Children of the RevolutionNine
VictoryMr. Jones
1997Event HorizonDr. William Weir
Snow White: A Tale of TerrorLord Fredric Hoffman
1998Horse Whisperer, TheThe Horse WhispererRobert MacLean
Sweet RevengeHenry Bell
Revengers' Comedies, TheThe Revengers' ComediesHenry Bell
1999MolokaiWalter Murray Gibson
Bicentennial Man'Sir' Richard Martin
2000My Mother FrankProfessor MortlockNominated - AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
Dish, TheThe DishCliff Buxton
The Magic PuddingSam SawnoffVoice role
2001Jurassic Park IIIDr. Alan Grant
Zookeeper, TheThe ZookeeperLudovicFt. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
2002Dirty DeedsRay
Leunig AnimatedNarrator
2003Perfect StrangersThe Man
2004WimbledonDennis Bradbury
2005GallipoliNarratorVoice role
Little FishThe Jockey
2008Dean SpanleyDean Spanley
SkinAbraham Laing
2009I Am YouMr. Reid
Iron RoadAlfred Nichol
Under the MountainMr. Jones
DaybreakersCharles Bromley
2010Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'HooleAllomereVoice role
2011The Dragon PearlChris Chase
Hunter, TheThe HunterJack MindyNominated - AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
2012Vow, TheThe VowBill Thornton
2013Escape PlanDr. Kyrie
Mariah Mundi and the Midas BoxOtto Luger


1982IvanhoeBrian de Bois-Guilbert
1983Reilly, Ace of SpiesSidney Reilly12 episodes
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
1985Kane and AbelWilliam Lowell Kane
1987AmerikaColonel Andrei Denisov
1991One Against the WindSergeant James Liggett
1993Family PicturesDavid Eberlin
1994The SimpsonsMalloyVoice role
Episode: "Homer the Vigilante"
1995Forgotten SilverHimself
1996In Cold BloodAgent Alvin Dewey
1998MerlinMerlinNominated - 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 GamesCitytrans CEOEpisode: "Transport"
2000Sally Hemings: An American ScandalThomas Jefferson
2001SubmergedLt. Cmdr. Charles B. 'Swede' Momsen
2002Doctor ZhivagoVictor Komarovsky
FramedEddie Meyers
2004StiffLionel Merricks
JessicaRichard RuncheLogie Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated - AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama
2005The Incredible Journey of Mary BryantGovernor Arthur Phillip2 episodes
To the Ends of the EarthMr. Prettiman3 episodes
The TriangleEric Benerall3 episodes
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television
2006Merlin's ApprenticeMerlin
Two TwistedMickEpisode: "Von Stauffenberg's Stamp"
2007The TudorsCardinal Thomas Wolsey10 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
2008–2010CrusoeJeremiah Blackthorn14 episodes
2009Happy TownMerritt Grieves8 episodes
2010RakeDr Bruce ChandlerEpisode: "R vs Chandler"
2011IceAnthony Kavanagh
2012AlcatrazEmerson Hauser13 episodes
2013Peaky BlindersC.I. Campbell6 episodes
2013HarryJim “Stocks” Stockton

Personal quotes[edit]

"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[edit]


  1. ^ Beck, Chris (2 September 2004). "The interview". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  2. ^ 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 film, The Dish. The Omagh-born actor talks to Eileen Condon about his latest role". The News Letter. Retrieved 10 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Sarah Catherall (6 November 2005). "Study costs rising by degrees". Tertiary education news. NZ Herald. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Sam Neill". Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. Australia. 7 June 2004. ABC. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  5. ^ Erika Grams. "Sam Neill — FAQ". Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "Nigel, Neville??". 5 October 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "A Cry in the Dark (1988) - Release dates". Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d The West. "A glorious romp through history" by Pam Brown. 5 February 2008.[dead link]
  9. ^ Adam Dawtrey (11 April 2012). Aneurin Barnard tapped for ‘Mariah Mundi’. Variety Article. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  10. ^ Two Paddocks vineyard
  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 August 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[edit]