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  • 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, Gillian Armstrong.
          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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    FILM/TV CREDITS

    - Jurassic Park III (2001)
    - The Zookeeper (2001)
    - The Dish (2000)
    - The Magic Pudding (2000)
    - Bicentennial Man (1999)
    - Molokai: Story of Father Damien(99)
    - My Mother Frank (1999)
    - The Horse Whisperer (1998)
    - Merlin (1998) [TV]
    - The Revengers' Comedies (1998)
    - Event Horizon (1997)
    - Snow White (1997)
    - Children of the Revolution (1996)
    - In Cold Blood (1996) [TV]
    - In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
    - Restoration (1995)
    - Victory (1995)
    - The Jungle Book (1994)
    - Country Life (1994)
    - Sirens (1994)
    - Jurassic Park (1993)
    - The Piano (1993)
    - Family Pictures (1993) [TV]
    - Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
    - Hostage (1992)
    - The Rainbow Warrior (1992)
    - One Against the Wind (1991) [TV]
    - Until the End of the World (1991)
    - Fever (1991) [TV]
    - Death in Brunswick (1991)
    - Shadow of China (1991)
    - The Hunt for Red October (1990)
    - Dead Calm (1989)
    - The French Revolution (1989)
    - A Cry in the Dark (1988)
    - Leap of Faith (1988) [TV]
    - The Good Wife (1987)
    - Amerika (1987) [TV]
    - For Love Alone (1986)
    - Strong Medicine (1986) [TV]
    - Kane & Abel (1985) [TV]
    - Plenty (1985)
    - Robbery Under Arms (1985) [TV]
    - The Blood of Others (1984) [TV]
    - Reilly: The Ace of Spies (1983) [TV]
    - The Country Girls (1983) [TV]
    - Ivanhoe (1982) [TV]
    - Attack Force Z (1982)
    - Enigma (1982)
    - From a Far Country (1981) [TV]
    - The Final Conflict (1981)
    - Possession (1981)
    - Lucinda Brayford (1980)
    - My Brilliant Career (1979)
    - The Journalist (1979)
    - Just Out of Reach (1979)
    - Sleeping Dogs (1977)
    - Ashes (1975)
    - Landfall (1975)
    - Telephone etiquette (1974)

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