SAM NEILL - [Nigel Neill]
September 14, 1947
Omagh, Northern Ireland
Three countries claim actor Sam Neill as their own: Ireland, where he was
born to Army parents; New Zealand, where he grew up and started his prolific
film career; and Australia, where he and his family spend much of their time
in between movies shot on locations around the world.
In reality he travels on a New Zealand passport and has no qualms about his
agent describing him as "a man of the world" ... his career has taken him to
scores of countries around the globe.
Nigel Neill was seven when his New Zealand parents returned home from their
Ireland postings, and like most Army siblings, spent much of his boyhood in
boarding schools before graduating from Canterbury University with a BA in
literature. (The nickname Sam started when he was a youngster in Ireland).
He had been involved for years with the New Zealand Players Group in theatre
presentations before embarking on a career as a writer, editor then director
for the Government-operated NZ Film Unit. But he soon realised he enjoyed
more being in front of the cameras.
He acted in two movies - Landfall and Ashes (both in 1975) before gaining
prominence co-starring with Warren Oates in Sleeping Dogs (1978), a
political thriller directed by Australian Roger Donaldson.
But it was his next movie and shift to Sydney in Australia that launched his
international career. He starred alongside another breakthrough player in
Judy Davis in My Brilliant Career (1979), directed by an emerging director,
James Mason, at the time married to Australian actress Clarissa Kaye, was so
impressed with Neill's work he lobbied producers in London to showcase the
young actor in The Omen: The Final Conflict (1981). And since, he's never
looked back and made more than 5o movies and mini-series around the world.
Neil says he doesn't want to be "a star." He varies his roles from small
independent outings to major Hollywood offerings like Jurassic Park, The
Hunt For Red October, The Horse Whisperer and Bicentennial Man, and the
big-rating Merlin mini-series.
But he is happy to have been called back for Jurassic Park 3 and the role of
Dr Alan Grant, the dino scientist (now shooting in Hawaii for producer
Steven Spielberg and director Joe Johnson).
Neill and British actress Lisa Harrow had a long relationship into the
mid-80s before he married Japanese make-up artist Noriko Watanabe in 1989.
While she usually works on most of Neill's films, she is also well-known for
other major credits on the likes of My Best Friend's Wedding and Holy Smoke.
When he's not away filming or resting in Sydney in between films, Neill is
often on the Souh Island of Kiwiland establishing a third vineyard for his
Two Paddocks pinoir red wine label in Gibbston Valley at the foot of the
Coronet Peak ski field near the picturesque Queenstown, home to many local
and international movies, including the recent Chris O'Donnell Hollywood
actioner Vertical Limits.
Says the actor: "I enjoy being a winemaker of sorts, even if my choice of
wine means cultivating a very tricky and elusive grape. More and more of my
friends at home and on film locations are after the Two Paddocks label, so I
need this third vineyard. But I really do enjoy the commitment away from my
real job, the one that pays all the bills - it's good for your soul to
balance your work and life."
Photo © Unknown
Bio contributed by Terry Bourke. Please let us know of any errors.
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