Sam Neill

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Sam Neill

Sam Neill 2017 (cropped).jpg
Neill in 2017
Nigel John Dermot Neill

(1947-09-14) 14 September 1947 (age 74)
Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
Education Christ's College, Christchurch
Alma mater
  • Actor
  • director
  • producer
  • writer
  • vineyard proprietor
Years active1970–present
  • (m. 1980;div. 1989)
  • Noriko Watanabe
    (m. 1989;separated 2017)
Partner(s) Laura Tingle

Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill DCNZM OBE (born 14 September 1947) is a New Zealand actor, director, producer, and writer.


Born in Omagh, Northern Ireland, Neill moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, with his family in 1954. [1] He first achieved recognition with his appearance in the 1977 film Sleeping Dogs , which he followed with leading roles in My Brilliant Career (1979), Omen III: The Final Conflict , Possession (both 1981), A Cry in the Dark (1988), Dead Calm (1989), The Hunt For Red October (1990), and The Piano (1993). He came to international prominence as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park (1993), [2] a role that he reprises in Jurassic Park III (2001) and the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion (2022).

Outside of film, Neill has appeared in numerous television series, including Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983), The Simpsons (1994), Merlin (1998), The Tudors (2007), Crusoe (2008–2010), Happy Town (2010), Alcatraz (2012), Peaky Blinders (2013–2014), and Rick and Morty (2019). He has presented and narrated several documentaries.

Neill is the recipient of the AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, the Longford Lyell Award, the New Zealand Film Award and the Logie Award for Most Outstanding Actor. He also has three Golden Globe and two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. [3] He lives in Alexandra, New Zealand and has three children and one stepchild.

Early life

Northern Ireland

Neill was born in 1947 in Omagh, Northern Ireland, to Priscilla Beatrice (née Ingham) and Dermot Neill. His father, an army officer, was a third-generation New Zealander, while his mother was born in England. [4] His great-grandfather Percy Neill left Belfast, in Ireland, for New Zealand in 1860, settling in Dunedin. He was the son of a wine merchant importing wine from France. [5] [6]

At the time of Neill's birth, his father was stationed in Northern Ireland, serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. [7] His father's family owned Neill and Co. (later part of the listed hospitality group Wilson Neill). [8] [9] Neill holds British and Irish citizenship through his place of birth, but identifies primarily as a New Zealander. [10]

New Zealand

In 1954, Neill moved with his family to New Zealand, where he attended the Anglican boys' boarding school Christ's College, Christchurch. He went on to study English literature at the University of Canterbury, where he had his first exposure to acting. He moved to Wellington to continue his tertiary education at Victoria University, where he graduated with a BA in English literature.

In 2004, on the Australian talk show Enough Rope , interviewer Andrew Denton briefly touched on the topic of Neill's stuttering. It affected him a lot and as a result he was "hoping that people wouldn't talk to [him]" so he would not have to answer. He also stated, "I kind of outgrew it. I can still ... you can still detect me as a stammerer." [11]

He first took to calling himself "Sam" at school because there were several other students named Nigel, and because he felt the name Nigel was "a little effete for ... a New Zealand playground". [11] [12] [13]

Acting career

New Zealand

Stills from Landfall - A Film About Ourselves (1974) Sam Neill- Landfall - A Film About Ourselves (1974) (20937182478).jpg
Stills from Landfall – A Film About Ourselves (1974)

Neil's first film was a New Zealand television movie The City of No (1971). He followed it with a short, The Water Cycle (1972) and the TV movie Hunt's Duffer (1973). Neill wrote and directed a film for the New Zealand National Film Unit, Telephone Etiquette (1974). He also appeared in Landfall (1976).[ citation needed ]

Neill's breakthrough performance in New Zealand was the film Sleeping Dogs (1977), the first local film to be widely screened abroad.


Neill went to Australia where he had a guest role on the TV show The Sullivans . He was the romantic male lead in My Brilliant Career (1979), opposite Judy Davis, which was a big international success.

He made some Australian films that were less widely seen: The Journalist (1979), Just Out of Reach (1979) and Attack Force Z (1981), and appeared in television productions such as Young Ramsay and Lucinda Brayford .

International career

Neill at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival SamNeill08TIFF.jpg
Neill at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival

In 1981, he won his first big international role, as Damien Thorn, son of the devil, in Omen III: The Final Conflict ; [14] also in that year, he played an outstanding main role in Andrzej Żuławski's cult film Possession . [14]

He was one of the leading candidates to succeed Roger Moore in the role of James Bond, but lost out to Timothy Dalton. 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), [15] a film 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 the mini-series Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983). An early American starring role was in 1987's Amerika, playing a senior KGB officer leading the occupation and division of a defeated United States. His leading and co-starring roles in films include the thriller Dead Calm (1989), [14] the two-part historical epic La Révolution française (1989) (as Marquis de Lafayette), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Death in Brunswick (1990), [14] Jurassic Park (1993), Sirens (1994), The Jungle Book (1994), John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Event Horizon (1997), Bicentennial Man (1999), and the comedy The Dish (2000). [14]

Neill has occasionally acted in New Zealand films, including The Piano (1993), Perfect Strangers (2003), Under the Mountain (2009), and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). He returned to directing in 1995 with the documentary Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) which he wrote and directed with Judy Rymer.

In 1993, he 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 2000, he provided the voice of Sam Sawnoff in The Magic Pudding . In 2001, he hosted and narrated a documentary series for the BBC entitled Space (Hyperspace in the United States).

He portrayed the eponymous wizard in Merlin (1998), a miniseries based on the legends of King Arthur. He reprised his role in the sequel, Merlin's Apprentice (2006).

Neill starred in the historical drama The Tudors, playing Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. "I have to say I really enjoyed making The Tudors", he said, [16] "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." [16]

Neil at Burghound Asia in Singapore in 2011 Sam Neill at Burghound Asia in Singapore.jpg
Neil at Burghound Asia in Singapore in 2011

He acted in the short-lived Fox TV series Alcatraz (2012) as Emerson Hauser. He played the role of Otto Luger in the fantasy adventure movie The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box [17] (2014). He had a role in the BBC series Peaky Blinders , set in post-World War I Birmingham. He played the role of Chief Inspector Chester Campbell, a sadistic corrupt policeman, who came to clean up the town on Churchill's orders. In the 2015 BBC TV miniseries And Then There Were None , based on Agatha Christie's thriller, he played the role of General MacArthur.

In 2016, he starred in the New Zealand-made film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople , directed by Taika Waititi, as well as the ITV miniseries Tutankhamun . In 2017, Neill appeared in a scene in Waititi's fantasy sequel Thor: Ragnarok , in which he portrays an actor playing Odin (as depicted by Anthony Hopkins), alongside Luke Hemsworth and Matt Damon as actors playing Thor and Loki, respectively.

In 2018, he portrayed Mr. McGregor and also provided the voice of Tommy Brock, in Peter Rabbit . In 2019, he was cast for the role of Denis Goldberg in Escape from Pretoria ; however, the role was subsequently recast with Ian Hart. In late 2019, he was announced to renew his character of Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic World: Dominion , set for release in 2022.

Personal life

From about 1980 to 1989, Neill was in a relationship with actress Lisa Harrow. [18] They have a son, Tim, born in 1983. Neill subsequently married make-up artist Noriko Watanabe in 1989 and they have one daughter, Elena (born in 1991). Neill separated from Watanabe in 2017, [19] [20] and as of early 2018 was dating Australian political journalist Laura Tingle. [21] [22] [23]

He is stepfather to Maiko Spencer, a daughter from Watanabe's first marriage. [24] In his early 20s, he fathered a son, Andrew, who was adopted by someone else. In 2014, Neill said the two "went looking for [one another]" and that their reunion was "much more grown-up" than expected. [25]

Neill lives in Alexandra and owns a winery called Two Paddocks, consisting of a vineyard at Gibbston and two near Alexandra, all in the Central Otago wine region of New Zealand's South Island. [26] His avocation 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, [16] "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." [16] He enjoys sharing his exploits on the farm through social media. [27] He names his farm animals after film-industry colleagues. [28]

Neill has homes in Wellington, New Zealand, and Sydney. He is a supporter of the Australian Speak Easy Association and the British Stammering Association (BSA). He supports the New Zealand Labour Party [29] and the Australian Labor Party.

Honours and awards

Neill was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1991 Queen's Birthday Honours, for services as an actor. [30] In the 2007 New Year Honours, he was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM). [31] When knighthoods were returned to the New Zealand royal 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". [32]

Neill was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Canterbury in 2002. [33] In 2020, he received an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award, limited to 20 living people. [34]



1977 Sleeping Dogs Smith
1979 Just Out of Reach Mike
The Journalist Rex
My Brilliant Career Harry Beecham
1981 Omen III: The Final Conflict Damien Thorn
Possession Mark
From a Far CountryMarian
1982 Ivanhoe Brian de Bois-Guilbert
Attack Force Z Sergeant D. J. (Danny) Costello
Enigma Dimitri Vasilikov
1984 The Blood of Others Bergman
The Country Girls Mr Gentleman
1985 Robbery Under Arms Captain Starlight
Plenty Lazar
1986 For Love Alone James Quick
1987 The Umbrella Woman Neville Gifford
1988 Evil Angels Michael ChamberlainWon – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1989 Dead Calm John Ingram
La Révolution française Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
1990 The Hunt for Red October Captain Vasily Borodin
Shadow of ChinaTV reporterCredited as John Dermot
1991 Death in Brunswick Carl 'Cookie' FitzgeraldNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Until the End of the World Eugene Fitzpatrick
Fever Eliott
1992 The Rainbow Warrior Alan Galbraith
Memoirs of an Invisible Man David JenkinsNominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
HostageJohn Rennie
1993 The Piano Alisdair StewartNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Jurassic Park Dr. Alan Grant
Sirens Norman Lindsay
1994 Country Life Dr. Max Askey
The Jungle Book Colonel Geofferey Brydon
In the Mouth of Madness John Trent
1995 Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill Narrator
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 Fredrick Hoffman
1998 The Horse Whisperer Robert MacLean
Sweet Revenge Henry Bell
1999 Molokai: The Story of Father Damien Walter Murray Gibson
Bicentennial Man 'Sir' Richard Martin
2000 My Mother Frank Professor MortlockNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The Dish Cliff Buxton
The Magic Pudding Sam SawnoffVoice role
2001 Jurassic Park III Dr. Alan Grant
The Zookeeper LudovicWon – Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
2002 Dirty Deeds Ray
Leunig AnimatedNarrator
2003 Perfect Strangers The Man
2004 Yes Anthony
Wimbledon Dennis Bradbury
2005 Gallipoli NarratorVoice 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 AllomereVoice role
2011 The Dragon Pearl Chris Chase
The Hunter Jack MindyNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
2012 The 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
2015 Backtrack Duncan Stewart
The Daughter Walter FinchNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople Uncle Hec
Tommy's Honour Alexander Boothby
2017 MindGamers Kreutz
Sweet Country Fred Smith
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Odin ActorCameo
2018 The Commuter Captain David Hawthorne
Peter Rabbit Mr. McGregor
Tommy Brock (voice)
2019 Palm Beach Leo
Blackbird Paul
Ride Like a Girl Paddy Payne
Take Home PayWedding PlannerCameo
2020 Rams Colin
2021 Daisy Quokka: World's Scariest Animal Frankie Scales
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway Tommy Brock (voice)
2022 Thor: Love and Thunder Odin ActorPost-production
Jurassic World: Dominion Dr. Alan GrantPost-production


1979–1980 The Sullivans Ben DawsonEpisodes 519–558
1980 Lucinda Brayford Tony DuffFour-part miniseries
ABC Television, Melbourne Australia
1982 Ivanhoe Brian de Bois-Guilbert
1983 Reilly, Ace of Spies Sidney Reilly12 episodes
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
1985 Kane & Abel William Lowell Kane
1986 Strong Medicine Vince Lord
1987 Amerika Colonel Andrei Denisov
1991One Against the WindSergeant James LiggettNominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
1993 Family Pictures David Eberlin
1994 The Simpsons MolloyVoice role
Episode: "Homer the Vigilante"
1995 Forgotten Silver Himself
1995Achilles Agamemnon Television movie
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 CEOEpisode: "Transport"
2000 Sally Hemings: An American Scandal Thomas Jefferson
2001 Space HimselfDocumentary series
2001SubmergedLt. Cmdr. Charles B. 'Swede' Momsen
2002 Doctor Zhivago Victor Komarovsky
FramedEddie Meyers
2004StiffLionel 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. Prettiman3 episodes
The Triangle Eric Benerall3 episodes
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television
2006 Merlin's Apprentice Merlin
Two Twisted MickEpisode: "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 Blackthorn14 episodes
2009 Happy Town Merritt Grieves8 episodes
bro'Town HimselfVoice role
Episode: "To Sam with Love"
2010 Rake Dr Bruce ChandlerEpisode: "R v Chandler"
2011IceAnthony Kavanagh
2012 Alcatraz Emerson Hauser13 episodes
2013Harry Jim "Stocks" Stockton
2013–2014 Peaky Blinders Major Chester Campbell12 episodes
2014 Old School Ted Macabe
2014 House of Hancock Lang Hancock
2015 And Then There Were None General John Gordon MacArthur
2016Why Anzac with Sam NeillHimselfDocumentary, wrote and produced
New Zealand: Earth's Mythical IslandsNarratorDocumentary series, 3 episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator
Tutankhamun Lord Carnavon
Country Calendar HimselfEpisode: "Film Noir"
2017Get Krack!nHimselfSeason 1, Episode 1
2018The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neill [35] HimselfDocumentary series, 6 episodes (known as Captain Cook's Pacific with Sam Neill in the UK) [36]
2019 Rick and Morty [37] Monogatron LeaderVoice
Episode: "The Old Man and the Seat"
2021 Invasion Sheriff John Bell TysonMain role
2021FlackDuncan PaulsonSeason 2

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