Sam Neill


Actor
Sam Neill

About

Also Known As
John Dermot, Nigel John Dermot Neill
Birth Place
Omagh,
Born
September 14, 1947

Biography

Few stars could boast a track record of turning in solid performances ranging from understated intensity to completely unhinged with such consistency as actor Sam Neill. Beginning with his work as a member of the New Zealand National Film Unit, Neill began to make a name for himself in his homeland with small films like "Sleeping Dogs" (1977). After moving to Australia for various film a...

Family & Companions

Lisa Harrow
Companion
Actor. Mother of Neill's son Tim; never married; acted together in "The Final Conflict" (1981).
Noriko Watanbe
Wife
Makeup artist. Japanese; mother of Neill's youngest child; met on the set of "Dead Calm" (1989); married in 1989.

Biography

Few stars could boast a track record of turning in solid performances ranging from understated intensity to completely unhinged with such consistency as actor Sam Neill. Beginning with his work as a member of the New Zealand National Film Unit, Neill began to make a name for himself in his homeland with small films like "Sleeping Dogs" (1977). After moving to Australia for various film and television work, he received international exposure with the third entry in the popular "Omen" horror series as Damian Thorn in "The Final Conflict" (1981). From there it was on to a nearly uninterrupted run of impressive performances alongside some of film's biggest stars in projects such as the underrated "Dead Calm" (1989), co-starring Nicole Kidman, and the Academy Award-winning "The Piano" (1993), featuring Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter. Neill then headlined one of the biggest blockbuster films of all time as the levelheaded Dr. Alan Grant in Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" (1993). Almost effortlessly, he would continue to move from genres ranging from horror (1995's "In the Mouth of Madness"), to comedy (2000's "The Dish"), to historical drama (the 2007 season of Showtime's "The Tudors"), and back again with apparent ease. Over the years, the once supposedly camera shy Neill had steadily become one of the most welcome international presences on screen - be it film or television - of his generation.

Born Nigel John Dermot Neill on Sept. 14, 1947 in Omagh, Ireland (County Tyrone in British-occupied Northern Ireland), "Sam" moved with his family to Dunedin, New Zealand when he was three. After attending boarding school at Christ's College in Christchurch, Neill studied English literature at the University of Canterbury. Emerging from university, he became a member of the New Zealand National Film Unit and began directing documentaries, making only occasional forays in front of the camera - at the time he was crippled by stage fright - in fringe productions and short films. Finally, after six years with the film unit, Neill took to acting with a passion, landing the lead role in Roger Donaldson's "Sleeping Dogs" (1977), New Zealand's first feature to receive a theatrical release in the United States. Soon after, the actor relocated to Australia where he first gained acclaim for his performance as a turn-of-the-century rancher in Gillian Armstrong's "My Brilliant Career" (1979), opposite Judy Davis as a headstrong young girl determined to maintain her independence. Neill's performance made an impact, in particular on film icon James Mason, who contacted Neill and encouraged him to come to London and take on an agent. Neill took the venerable actor's advice, and as a consequence won the lead in "The Final Conflict" (1981), the third entry in the "Omen" franchise. Neill's portrayal of the adult anti-Christ marked his U.S. debut, and while the film was the least successful of the series, it undeniably gained him international recognition. In another, even darker tale of terror, Neill played the suspicious husband of Isabelle Anjani in Andrzej Zulawski's cult psychological horror film, "Possession" (1981). Back in Australia, Neill next worked alongside future megastar Mel Gibson in "Attack Force Z" (1982), a World War II action adventure also starring B-movie veteran John Philip Law.

For much of the 1980s, Neill added to his steadily growing résumé with a mixture of feature films and television projects. In the U.S., he took part in an adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's medieval classic "Ivanhoe" (CBS, 1982), co-starring friend and mentor James Mason. Across the pond, Neill turned in a highly regarded performance as Sydney Reilly, Britain's first super-spy, in the fact-based, 12-part series "Reilly: Ace of Spies" (PBS, 1984). The following year, Neill was cast alongside rising star Meryl Streep for the first time, in the post-WWII romantic drama "Plenty" (1985) - one of Streep's few early missteps. Back in the States, Neill made more television appearances with a pair of miniseries among them; first, chewing the scenery with Peter Strauss in a tale of rivalry and greed, "Kane & Abel" (CBS, 1985), and later in the dismal "Amerika" (ABC, 1987), a cautionary tale about a Soviet takeover of the United States. Reunited with Streep in the gripping "A Cry in the Dark" (1988), Neill played the husband of a woman (Streep) who claimed that her child had been attacked by a wild animal, only to later be accused of the death herself. In the tear-jerking "Leap of Faith" (CBS, 1988), Neill played the husband of Anne Archer, a woman diagnosed with cancer who begins looking for answers not provided by modern medicine. Continuing with his string of stalwart husband roles, Neill delivered an understated, yet intense performance in the nautical thriller "Dead Calm" (1989). Based on the novel by pulp writer Charles Williams, "Dead Calm" starred the then barely known Nicole Kidman as Neill's resourceful wife, a woman who finds herself kidnapped by an insane murderer, who then commandeers their boat, leaving Neill to die, trapped on a sinking vessel. As the crazed Hughie, Billy Zane's over-the-top portrayal may have stolen the scenes he appeared in, but it was Neill who the audience rooted for every step of the way.

Neill began the next decade with a supporting role in his first truly big budget U.S. feature, "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. Adapted from the Tom Clancy military thriller, the film was a blockbuster hit and upped his profile substantially. After contributing to Wim Wenders' muddled, near-future science fiction road movie "Until the End of the World" (1991), Neill did time on director John Carpenter's utterly forgettable "Memoirs of an Invisible Man" (1992). During this busy time, Neill managed another stint on the small screen with "Family Pictures" (ABC, 1993), a family drama co-starring Angelica Huston. Allowing him to film again in New Zealand for the first time in 14 years was the spellbinding romantic drama "The Piano" (1993), in which Neill played a decidedly unsupportive husband this time around. Co-starring Harvey Keitel and directed by Jane Campion, "The Piano" was a favorite with critics, earning Oscars for both young actress Anna Paquin and its star, Holly Hunter, as a mute woman sent to 19th Century New Zealand with her daughter, due to an arranged marriage. Neill's profile was on the rise, but it was in the role of a skeptical paleontologist trapped on an island with blood-thirsty, bio-engineered dinosaurs that he entered the pop-culture zeitgeist in a big way. Adapted from the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, "Jurassic Park" (1993) marked Steven Spielberg's rip-roaring return to the action adventure genre he had mastered in the 1980s with the Indiana Jones films. Neill was perfectly cast as the work-obsessed man of science who suddenly finds himself the protector of two very frightened children. Just as with "Dead Calm," he provided a sense of measured rationality in an otherwise frighteningly chaotic narrative. The attention that followed the massive success of "Jurassic Park" resulted in Neill landing one role which proved he had truly arrived - a voice cameo on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) in 1994.

Going against type, Neill next played a wild bohemian artist in the Australian-made "Sirens" (1994), co-starring Hugh Grant doing his usual flustered best as a sexually repressed minister, and supermodel Elle MacPherson as one of Neill's playful muses. Reteaming with horror-meister John Carpenter, Neill played an insurance investigator sent to look into the disappearance of the popular Stephen King-esque horror writer Sutter Kane (Jürgen Prochnow) in "In the Mouth of Madness" (1995). Although not a box office triumph, it marked a return to horror form for Carpenter, and provided Neill with another chance to illustrate his impressive range as an actor. That same year, Neill turned in an over-the-top performance as the rogue King Charles II, the benefactor - and later, bête noir - of Robert Downey Jr., in "Restoration" (1995). Neill returned to documentary filmmaking with "Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill" (1995), commissioned by the British Film Institute as part of its "The Century of Cinema" series. He reunited with Judy Davis in the Australian black comedy "Children of the Revolution" (1996), and made another entry into horror as a possessed space scientist in the visually stunning, but surprisingly tedious, "Event Horizon" (1997). Neill then delivered an all-out performance as the title character of "Merlin" (NBC, 1998), a $30 million special effects-laden miniseries, for which he earned critical kudos and an Emmy nomination. The actor also turned in a solid, albeit thankless, performance as Kristin Scott Thomas' understanding husband in "The Horse Whisperer" (1998), starring and directed by Robert Redford.

Neill continued to undertake challenging roles in a wide variety of projects. He was well cast as the wealthy man who brings home a robot to aid around the house in the Robin Williams futuristic dramedy, "Bicentennial Man" (1999). Neill also earned critical praise for a pair of Australian-produced films - "My Mother Frank" (1999), in which he essayed a chauvinistic, conservative college professor who butts heads with a fifty-something co-ed (Sinead Cusack), and "The Dish" (2000), as the cardigan-wearing scientist in charge of the telescope that was to relay signals of the American moon landing in 1969. And although he skipped the second installment of the juggernaut franchise, Neill revisited his role as paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant in "Jurassic Park III" (2001). Neill continued to keep busy with a variety of low-profile Aussie and European productions, playing Victor Komarovsky in the English miniseries adaptation of "Dr. Zhivago" (PBS, 2003) opposite Hans Matheson and Keira Knightley. However, Neill continued to resurface in Hollywood productions, like the romantic comedy "Wimbledon" (2004), in which he played tennis ace Kirsten Dunst's ambitious, overly protective father. In British filmmaker Sally Potter's sexually and politically charged romantic drama "Yes" (2005), Neill played the English politician husband of Joan Allen's character, who enters into an affair with a Lebanese exile. A daring and provocative endeavor, its use of iambic pentameter alienated audiences. Continually attracted to Australian features, Neill gave a standout performance as the heavy in "Little Fish" (2005), playing a bisexual crime lord putting the screws to a former heroin addict (Cate Blanchett). Neill put the wizards cap back on for "Merlin's Apprentice" (Hallmark Channel, 2006), in addition to playing the rugged and freethinking Mr. Pettiman in "To the Ends of the Earth" (PBS, 2006), a "Masterpiece Theater" miniseries about the doomed voyage of a British warship traveling from England to Australia.

Always convincing in period pieces, Neill stole the show as the scheming Cardinal Wolsey, top advisor to King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), in the first season of "The Tudors" (Showtime, 2007-2010), a lavish historical melodrama depicting the conflicted monarch prior to his split from the Catholic Church. The veteran film actor then took a chance as a recurring cast member on a pair of network television series. "Crusoe" (NBC, 2008-09) revisited Daniel Defoe's classic shipwreck tale, and "Happy Town" (ABC, 2009-2010) was a mystery series that aspired to be "Twin Peaks" as channeled through Stephen King. Tellingly, both series were canceled almost as soon as they premiered. Neill was soon back in theaters playing a cold-blooded bureaucrat in the apocalyptic sci-fi horror effort, "Daybreakers" (2010), depicting a future in which humans are raised as cattle to feed the ruling vampire class. Neill followed up by voicing the role of Allomere in director Zack Snyder's animated fantasy adventure, "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" (2010).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey By Sam Neill (1995)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Peter Rabbit (2018)
The Commuter (2018)
Tommy's Honour (2017)
Sweet Country (2017)
DXM (2017)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
The Daughter (2016)
United Passions (2015)
Backtrack (2015)
Mariah Mundi & the Midas Box (2014)
A Long Way Down (2014)
Escape Plan (2013)
The Vow (2012)
In Her Skin (2011)
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
Voice
Daybreakers (2010)
Under the Mountain (2010)
Dean Spanley (2008)
Skin (2008)
Angel (2007)
Little Fish (2006)
Merlin's Apprentice (2006)
Wimbledon (2004)
Dennis Bradbury
Yes (2004)
Anthony
Dirty Deeds (2003)
Detective Sergeant Ray Murphy
Framed (2002)
Eddie Meyers
Submerged (2001)
Lieutenant Commander Charles "Swede" Momsen
Jurassic Park III (2001)
The Magic Pudding (2000)
Voice Of Sam Sawnoff--The Penguin
Numero Bruno (2000)
The Zookeeper (2000)
The Dish (2000)
Cliff Buxton
Bicentennial Man (1999)
My Mother Frank (1999)
Professor Mortlock
The Horse Whisperer (1998)
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1998)
Prime Minister Gibson
MERLIN (1998)
Event Horizon (1997)
Victory (1997)
Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
Frederick Hoffman
The Revengers' Comedies (1997)
Forgotten Silver (1996)
Himself
Children of the Revolution (1996)
Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey By Sam Neill (1995)
Himself
Restoration (1995)
King Charles Ii
In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
The Jungle Book (1994)
Rainbow Warrior (1994)
Allan Galbraith
Country Life (1994)
Dr Max Askey
The Piano (1993)
Stewart
Jurassic Park (1993)
Sirens (1993)
Norman Lindsay
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992)
Hostage (1992)
Fever (1991)
One Against the Wind (1991)
Captain James Leggatt
Until the End of the World (1991)
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
La Revolution Francaise (1990)
For Love Alone (1990)
James Quick
Death in Brunswick (1990)
Carl Fitzerald
Dead Calm (1989)
John Ingram
Leap of Faith (1988)
Oscar Ogg
A Cry in the Dark (1988)
Michael Chamberlain
The Blood of Others (1988)
Dieter Bergman
The Good Wife (1987)
Neville Gifford
Plenty (1985)
Robbery Under Arms (1984)
Captain Starlight
Enigma (1983)
The Country Girls (1983)
Mr Gentleman
Attack Force Z (1982)
Sergeant Danny Costello
Ivanhoe (1982)
Brian De Bois-Guilbert
Possession (1981)
Marc
The Final Conflict (1981)
From a Far Country: Pope John Paul II (1981)
Marian
Just Out of Reach (1979)
Mike
My Brilliant Career (1979)
Harry Beecham
The Journalist (1979)
Rex
Sleeping Dogs (1977)

Writer (Feature Film)

Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey By Sam Neill (1995)
Screenplay

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Forgotten Silver (1996)
Other
Death in Brunswick (1990)
Stand-In

Cast (Special)

Hyperspace (2001)
Host
SuperCroc (2001)
Narrator
Visions of Grace: Robert Redford and "The Horse Whisperer" (1998)
The American Film Institute Salute to Steven Spielberg (1995)
Performer
51st Annual Golden Globe Awards (1994)
Presenter
Making of "Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book," The (1994)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Doctor Zhivago (2003)
Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000)
In Cold Blood (1996)
Family Pictures (1993)
Amerika (1987)
Arthur Hailey's "Strong Medicine" (1986)
Kane & Abel (1985)

Life Events

1977

Made feature film debut playing the lead in Roger Donaldson's "Sleeping Dogs," the first New Zealand film ever released in the United States

1978

Had his breakthrough role as the suitor to writer Sybylla Melvin in "My Brilliant Career," his first collaboration with Judy Davis

1981

First U.S. film, "Omen III: The Final Conflict," the third film in "The Omen" trilogy

1983

Played the title role of Sidney Reilly on the PBS drama series "Reilly, Ace of Spies"; earned a Golden Globe nomination

1985

Acted opposite Meryl Streep in Fred Schepisi's "Plenty"

1987

Portrayed Colonel Andrei Denisov in ABC's acclaimed miniseries "Amerika"

1988

Re-teamed with Schepisi and Streep for "A Cry in the Dark"

1989

Starred opposite Nicole Kidman in Phillip Noyce's "Dead Calm"

1990

Credited as John Dermot for his cameo in "Shadow of China"

1990

Played Captain Second Rank Vasily Borodin in "The Hunt for Red October"

1991

Played opposite Judy Davis in CBS's "One Against the Wind"

1991

Starred in the Australian film "Death in Brunswick"

1991

Acted in Wim Wenders' "Until the End of the World"

1992

First association with director John Carpenter, "Memoirs of an Invisible Man"

1993

Starred opposite Anjelica Huston in the ABC miniseries "Family Pictures"

1993

Starred as the New Zealand farmer who enters an arranged marriage with a Scottish woman in Jane Campion's "The Piano"

1993

Achieved superstardom as a paleontologist who encounters living dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster "Jurassic Park" adaptation

1995

Portrayed charismatic King Charles II in "Restoration"

1995

Re-teamed with Carpenter for "In the Mouth of Madness"

1995

Returned to documentary filmmaking with "Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey By Sam Neill," an autobiographical account of the New Zealand cinema; co-directed and co-scripted with Julie Rymer

1996

Re-teamed with Judy Davis for the black comedy "Children of the Revolution"

1997

Played the lead in "The Revengers' Comedies," co-starring Helena Bonham Carter and Kristin Scott Thomas (aired in the U.S. as "Sweet Revenge")

1998

Portrayed the legendary wizard in the acclaimed NBC miniseries "Merlin"; received an Emmy nomination

1998

Played Kristin Scott Thomas' husband in Robert Redford's "The Horse Whisperer"

1999

Appeared in a supporting role in the biopic "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien"

1999

Cast as a wealthy man who buys a robot for his family in "Bicentennial Man"

2000

Appeared in the Scandinavian drama "The Zoo Keeper"

2000

Portrayed U.S. President Thomas Jefferson in the CBS miniseries "Sally Hemings: An American Scandal"

2000

Starred in the Australian film "The Dish"

2001

Played a lead role in the based-on-fact NBC movie "Submerged"

2001

Co-starred in sequel "Jurassic Park III" alongside Tea Leoni and William H. Macy

2002

Was cast opposite Keira Knightley in the miniseries "Doctor Zhivago" (PBS)

2004

Played the father of Kirsten Dunst's character in the romantic comedy "Wimbledon"

2005

Co-starred with Cate Blanchett in the Australian film "Little Fish"

2005

Starred as Joan Allen's husband in "Yes"

2008

Played the title role in the British comedy-drama film "Dean Spanley" alongside Jeremy Northam and Peter O'Toole

2008

Was cast as Jeremiah Blackthorn on the NBC adventure series "Crusoe"

2009

Re-teamed with Peter O'Toole in the Canadian miniseries "Iron Road"

2010

Cast as Charles Bromley, a vampire in charge of a powerful corporation, in the sci-fi film "Daybreakers"

2010

Acted on the ABC mystery drama series "Happy Town"

2012

Featured on J. J. Abrams produced "Alcatraz" (Fox)

2012

Featured opposite Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in romantic drama "The Vow"

2013

Had the recurring role of DSS Jim Stockton on crime drama "Harry"

2013

Played Chester Campbell on historical drama "Peaky Blinders"

2016

Co-starred in New Zealand adventure drama "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"

2016

Starred in the "Tutankhamun" miniseries

2017

Had a minor role in Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok"

2018

Appeared in action thriller "The Commuter"

Videos

Movie Clip

My Brilliant Career (1979) - Mrs. Bossier's Granddaughter The first shot with green vegetation as Sybylla (Judy Davis), sent from her parents' droughted outback farm, is greeted by Frank (Robert Grubb) then her grandmother and aunt (Aileen Britton, Wendy Hughes), in Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career, 1979, from the autobiographical novel by Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin.
My Brilliant Career (1979) - You'll Have Me Sacked Sybylla (Judy Davis), visiting her grandmother, aunt and uncle (Aileen Britton, Wendy Hughes, Peter Whitford) in 1901 Australia, has her head plausibly turned by a handsome neighbor (Sam Neill), not realizing he's a childhood friend, Robert Grubb as the less interesting Frank, in Gillian Armstrong's international hit My Brilliant Career, 1979.
Possession (1981) - When Will You Know? Chilly West Berlin opening from director Andrzej Zulawski, introducing Sam Neill as Marc, Isabelle Adjani as wife Helen, Michael Hogben their son improbably called "Bob," in the melodrama-horror hybrid Possession, 1981.
Possession (1981) - A Real Father In a placid West Berlin cafe, newly estranged Marc (Sam Neill) and Anna (Isabelle Adjani) discussing their son, then blowing up, another weird scene from director Andrzej Zulawski, in Possession, 1981.
Cry In The Dark, A (1988) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer for director Fred Schepisi's acclaimed treatment of the case that enthralled and polarized Australia, starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, A Cry In The Dark, 1988.
Possession (1981) - Think About Me Leaving a meeting in (desolate) West Berlin, Marc (Sam Neill) gazes across the wall, takes a tough phone call from estranged wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani), then discovers evidence of her affair, in director Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, 1981.
Possession (1981) - It Doesn't Hurt Desperate Marc (Sam Neill) trying to interrogate straying wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) who's fooling with kitchen tools, reminders that this is also a horror film, in director Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, 1981.

Trailer

Family

Dermot Neill
Father
New Zealander who served in the British Army; family owned Neill & Company (now Wilson Neill & Co.), one of New Zealand's largest liquor wholesalers; died in 1991.
Priscilla Neill
Mother
British.
Michael Neill
Brother
College professor. Older; born c. 1943.
Juliet Neill
Sister
Younger; born c. 1950.
Tim Neill
Son
Born in 1982; mother, Lisa Harrow.
Maiko
Step-Daughter
Mother, Noriko Watanbe.
Elena Neill
Daughter
Born on January 10, 1991; mother, Noriko Watanbe.

Companions

Lisa Harrow
Companion
Actor. Mother of Neill's son Tim; never married; acted together in "The Final Conflict" (1981).
Noriko Watanbe
Wife
Makeup artist. Japanese; mother of Neill's youngest child; met on the set of "Dead Calm" (1989); married in 1989.

Bibliography