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Ver 1.98.9 February 2003

Compiled by the Sam Neill Mailing List and list maintainer Erika Grams. Additions made by Chriss Green and Vanessa. Corrections and comments should be directed to

Disclaimer: Although the contents of this FAQ have been verified as accurate by Mr. Neill, the information in the FAQ was compiled and written by Erika Grams. In other words, this FAQ should in no way be construed as an official statement from Mr. Neill.

This FAQ is not a press kit nor should it be treated as publicity material distributed by Mr. Neill. It is a personal, copyrighted research work by Erika Grams < >. You are welcome to use material from the FAQ for articles or papers, so long as you provide proper acknowlegment by giving the site's URL address and naming the author, Erika Grams, as your source.

Please let me know if you are writing an article about Sam, especially if it is posted on the Internet, as I would be glad to list it in the bibliography and provide a link to your article from this site. Thank you for your consideration.

Copyright © 1996-2003 by Erika Grams. All rights reserved. Reproduction in full or in part in any medium without permission of the author expressly prohibited.


1.0 Who is Sam Neill? 2.0 What has he done? 3.0 What else can you tell me about him?

Thanks to the following people for their work in improving and modifying the Sam Neill FAQ: Erika Grams, Vanessa Der Klawer, Chriss Green, Maureen Lynch, Leslita Godfrey, Betsy Pearson, and all other members of the Sam Neill Mailing List. Special thanks to Mr. Neill!

1.0 Who is Sam Neill?

1.1 Vital Statistics

1.2 Biography

Sam Neill was born on September 14, 1947 Omagh, Northern Ireland. His father, Dermot Neill, was a third-generation New Zealander descending from the family that owned Neill & Co (now Wilson Neill & Co), one of the country's largest liquor wholesalers. According to Sam (while doing publicity for The Jungle Book), many generations on both sides of his family served in the British army, a career carried on by his father. Dermot Neill was sent to England for an education at Harrow and then he attended Sandhurst Military Academy. At a ball at the academy, Dermot met and fell in love with Priscilla. (Very little information is available about her, but it is known that she is English.) In approximately 1943, their first son, Michael, was born in England. The father's regiment was posted to Northern Ireland soon after, serving in the Irish Guards. Nigel followed in 1947 in Omagh, County Tyrone, and his sister was born in approximately 1950. In 1954, the family returned to New Zealand where the elder Neill joined the family business. He also served for 20 years as the French consul in Dunedin and after retirement took up the equestrian art of dressage. Because of the number of Nigels at school, Sam soon got his nickname which he continues to use as his stage name. "I encouraged the nickname because I thought I'd be slightly less likely to be victimized during the tender years," he says. "Nigel was a little effete for the rigours of a New Zealand playground." The family lived in Dunedin on the South Island and Sam went to boarding school at Christchurch's Christ College, an Anglican boys' school. Both there and at Canterbury University, he participated in school drama productions, though apparently never took an acting class. His interest in acting was fueled by Dame Ngaio Marsh, who annually produced Shakesperian plays during Neill's time at the university and director Mervyn Thomson. He has a B.A. in English, reflecting his interest in Shakespeare. This interest is shared by his brother, who did some acting in school productions and is now an English professor. After college, Sam toured for a year in a minibus with the Players Drama Quartet. He then began working with the New Zealand National Film Unit in Wellington, directing documentaries such as Telephone Etiquette , Surf Sail, and Architect Athfield and also acting in fringe productions and short films such as Ashes and Landfall. After six years with the Film Unit he landed the lead role in the feature film Sleeping Dogs, the first New Zealand film ever to be released in the United States. Noticed by Australian casting director Margaret Fink, he was asked to audition for the male protagonist in Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career . After he got the role, "I came back to New Zealand and all in the same day resigned my job, put my house on the market. I left about two weeks later and never looked back." It was another 14 years before Sam Neill made a film in New Zealand. Moving to Australia, Sam finally discovered that he could make acting his vocation. "It was when I started My Brilliant Career that I thought, this is something I can do and want to do." He subsequently made The Journalist, Just Out of Reach, and Attack Force Z. He also worked on some television programs such as The Sullivans and Lucinda Brayford. While working on the latter project, he received a call from English actor James Mason, who had been very impressed by Neill's performance in My Brilliant Career . Mason recommended Neill for the lead role in The Final Conflict: Omen III and offered Neill a ticket to London. Sam Neill handily won the leading role in Omen III, his first American film, one shot in London. During the course of filming, he began a relationship with leading lady Lisa Harrow. They have one son named Tim, but were unable to settle down as a couple and separated after a few years. Sam went on to share the screen with her in From a Far Country, a movie about Pope John Paul II, and with James Mason in Ivanhoe. In this period he also filmed Enigma, The Country Girls, Possession and Plenty. One might also say the London period was his 'mini-series' period, as he finished The Blood of Others, Kane and Abel, Arthur Hailey's Strong Medicine, and the Australian western Robbery under Arms.

However, his most famous role is, of course, Sidney Reilly in the Thames Television series, Reilly: Ace of Spies. Neill notes "One of the big satisfactions for me with Reilly was that I discovered I could cut that particular mustard ... at the end of it I acquired confidence as I'd never known it." Others agreed that the Kiwi actor with no formal training was among the best. In 1983 he received a Golden Globe nomination and won "The Most Popular Actor in the UK" award for the series as well. When it was broadcast on PBS' Mystery in the United States, Neill was discovered by new admirers and re-discovered by fans of My Brilliant Career. Because of Reilly, Sam Neill became one of the names bandied about for the role of James Bond, after Roger Moore announced his decision to retire from it. The speculation was repeated again in the 1990s, after Timothy Dalton and the film series parted ways.

In the middle of the decade, he took on a series of roles in films all over the world which only increased his reputation as a solid character actor. Though he remained one of the most popular actors in Australia and commanded leading roles in films and television down under, it was ten years before he received a comparable degree of recognition as a lead actor in a film with world-wide distribution -- Jurassic Park, where his screen time competed with that of computer-generated dinosaurs. However, that film made him as well-known to a new generation as "Reilly" had 10 years previously.

Between 1984 and 1988, Neill remained a loyal member of the Australian film community as well as filming the American mini-series Amerika and the U.S. made-for-TV movie Leap of Faith (Question of Faith) . For Love Alone and The Umbrella Woman (The Good Wife) signaled this return and both films garnered him critical acclaim in Australia. With his familiar co-star Meryl Streep, he made the controversial Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark) for which he won an Australian Film Institute Best Actor award (Ms. Streep won for Best Actress and the film won Best Picture for 1988 as well). Rumors began about a possible Oscar nomination, but in a trend which has become familiar to Neill's fans, he was overlooked in the wave of acclaim for his female co-star. On the set of Dead Calm , Neill met make-up artist Noriko Watanabe; they married in 1989. Dead Calm introduced America to director Phillip Noyce who went on to direct Patriot Games and actress Nicole Kidman who attracted Tom Cruise's attention and a role in Days of Thunder, and to lesser extent, actor Billy Zane, now best known as the insufferable fiance in Titanic. Death in Brunswick brought him his second Australian Film Institute Best Actor nomination, but he lost to Hugo Weaving (Proof).

Two off-beat roles came to Sam at the end of the 1980s. The first was a cameo in Shadow of China, credited under the pseudonym John Dermot. His future wife Noriko Watanabe was the make-up artist on this Japanese production, filmed in Hong Kong. The second was a small, but pivotal role as the Marquis de Lafayette in the grand epic La Revolution francaise . The scenes were all originally filmed in both French and English, but an English version of the film has never been officially been released on video. It was shown on Canadian television in English. Most of the non-native French speakers, including Neill, have had all their lines dubbed by other actors for the French version.

The 1990s brought Neill a succession of roles which have kept him extremely busy. The Hunt for Red October and Wim Wenders' epic Until the End of the World began the decade. A full 5-6 hour version of the already 2hour 40minute Until the End of the World has been produced, but is not widely available; Neill aided the re-cut by adding additional narration. The HBO film Fever and Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation One Against the Wind nicely concluded 1991 and the latter film re-united him with his My Brilliant Career co-star Judy Davis (who received an Emmy nomination for the role). In 1991, Sam Neill was awarded an O.B.E (Order of the British Empire) for services to acting: "The only award I have ever been thrilled to receive was the OBE ... given to me four days before my father died of cancer. It made him proud of me and I'm pleased he knew about it."

1992 brought Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Hostage. 1993 was a signifcant year for Mr. Neill -- films released then included two which had allowed him to film in his home country for the first time in 14 years: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and award-winning the Piano . In addition, in February 1993, the mini-series Family Pictures was broadcast in the United States (gaining co-star Angelica Huston an Emmy nomination). June was the monster month, coming just after the Piano made its huge splash at Cannes, where Neill accepted the Palme d'Or on behalf of director Jane Campion and coinciding with the long-awaited release of Steven Spielberg's dinosaur extravaganza Jurassic Park. While doing publicity for JP, Neill stated "It's a good double act to have ... this commercial success and this critical success." The attention did get him one role which signifies success in 1990s America: a cameo on The Simpsons as a David Niven-esque figure.

Neill has been making movies almost continuously through the 1990s, from Sirens with Hugh Grant and Elle McPherson, to John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, Miramax's epic Restoration (which won Oscars for Best Costumes and Best Art Direction), Michael Blakemore's adaptation of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" -- Country Life, the live-action Disney adventure The Jungle Book, and the adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Victory, which is still in release limbo four year later. In 1995, his documentary about New Zealand film-making, Cinema of Unease, was shown at Cannes and received widespread critical acclaim. It formed part of the British Film Institute's Century of Cinema series, which asked representative directors (including Martin Scorsese, Stephen Frears, George Miller, and Jean-Luc Godard) from a number of different countries to write and direct a retrospective of their country's film history. In 1995, he began filming, on location in Prague the live-action fairy tale -- The Grimm Brothers: Snow White in the Black Forest, a darker, more gothic version of the traditional tale in which Sigourney Weaver plays the evil stepmother and Sam Neill plays her hapless husband, Snow White's father. After two years in limbo, Showtime finally broadcast the film on television in the summer of 1997 and it resulted in a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Weaver.

Children of the Revolution was finally screened in 1996 to much critical acclaim, winning several Australian Film Institute Awards including one for Judy Davis, for best actress. Although no other film of Mr. Neill's got a theatrical release in 1996, it was a productive year. During the summer, he joined Anthony Edwards and Eric Roberts in Alberta to film a remake of In Cold Blood, broadcast on the American network CBS in November 1996. The fall was spent in England filming a screen adaptation of Alan Ackybourne's excellent play The Revengers' Comedies with Helena Bonham Carter and Kristin Scott Thomas. As the year came to a close, he stayed in England to film the science-fiction thriller Event Horizion with Laurence Fishburne which was released in the summer of 1997.

The summer of 1997 found Mr. Neill in New York and Montana filming his role in Robert Redford's adaptation of the novel The Horse Whisperer . Fans were reminded of Vassily Borodin's final words in The Hunt for Red October. Originally scheduled for a December release against Titanic , The Horse Whisperer was re-scheduled for May 1998 so it could vye for the audiences who would be unimpressed by Godzilla (released only a few days later). This also gave Redford time to trim the film down from his original 3 hour plus cut. In fact the movie did extremely well, making over $70 million in the United States in a summer filled with blockbusters. Neill spent the fall and winter of 1997-8 in Great Britain again, this time in Wales, filming the Hallmark Entertainment mini-series Merlin. Playing the eponymous wizard, Sam Neill led an excellent cast to a ratings victory for NBC in April 1998. The first half of the mini-series was watched by approximately 37 million viewers. That gave NBC its highest ratings for a movie since Jurassic Park in 1995 and the best miniseries rating in fourteen years. The mini-series was a critical success as well, garnering excellent reviews from publications such as Variety and Entertainment Weekly. It also won 15 Emmy nominations, including a Leading Actor in a Mini-Series or Television Movie nomination for Mr. Neill. Neill's co-stars, Helena Bonham Carter, Martin Short (both for Merlin), and Sigourney Weaver (Snow White) all garnered Emmy nominations in the same year. Additionally, Neill, Bonham Carter, and Miranda Richardson all received Golden Globe nominations for their work in Merlin . Following these events, Mr. Neill spent the summer in Hawaii playing the politician and adventurer Walter Murray Gibson in Molokai, a film based on the true story of Father Damien who worked with Hawaiian lepers and who died of leprosy himself.

As the millenium comes to an end (at least for non-pedants), Sam Neill has returned to a busy film schedule. At the beginning of 1999, he took on the twin tasks of portraying Professor Mortlock in the Australian drama My Mother Frank and voicing the penguin bold Sam Sawnoff in the animated version of Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding. The former film stars Sinead Cusack, the wife of actor Jeremy Irons (whom Sam claims to do a fair imitation of). The Magic Pudding is a famous Australian children's book and attracted other Down Under greats as Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, John Laws, and Jack Thompson; John Cleese rounds out the cast as Albert, the Magic Pudding. In the spring, Mr. Neill went to San Francisco to work with Robin Williams on The Bicentennial Man, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's classic tale of a robot who wants to find his own humanity. The summer found him in Melbourne working on The Dish , a comedy by the writers of the Aussie TV series Frontline and the extremely popular film (in Australia) The Castle. Returning to the U.S. in the late summer, Mr. Neill spent two months in Richmond, Virginia starring in a mini-series about the alleged relationship between America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, and his slave Sally Hemings. In February 2000, the mini-series Sally Hemings: An American Scandal broadcast on CBS and helped give America a new perspective on a familiar icon; two weeks before the broadcast, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation announced its acceptance of the Hemings-Jefferson liasion as probable fact thanks to DNA testing and circumstantial, historical evidence. <NOTE: in April 2001, a panel finished its examination of the evidence in this case and concluded Jefferson did not father Sally Hemings children. For more info on this side of the debate, read The Scholars Commission Report>

In early 2000, Sam Neill went to Prague in the Czech Republic to film The Zookeeper with Om Puri and numerous elephants. During this time Two Paddocks released its 1998 vintage of Neill Pinot Noir. It wasn't long before the Jurassic Park III rumors began and in late June, it was confirmed that for the first time he would be reprising one of his charcters, playing Dr. Alan Grant in the third installment of the internationally successful movie series. Filming commenced in Hawaii in September, moved to California, and completed in January 2001 and the film was scheduled to open in mid-July 2001. Meanwhile, the trio of Australian films Sam Neill made in 1999 began opening Down Under. My Mother Frank debuted in August; The Magic Pudding opened at Christmastime and in between was the runaway success of The Dish. Now one of the highest-grossing Australian films in the country's history, The Dish opened in October 2000 to mostly good reviews and sailed to more than AU$17 million at the box office. The film won the Silver Medal Audience Award at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival and Mr. Neill and director Rob Sitch were also found promoting it at Sundance 2001. The movie opened in the North America in March 2001, garnering very good reviews from the US and Canadian press. My Mother Frank yielded Sam his third nomination at the Australian Film Institute Awards and The Dish led him to an Australian Film Critics' Circle Best Actor Nomination. After completing work on Jurassic Park III, Sam Neill returned to New Zealand to film Space/Final Frontiers, a BBC documentary about the beginning of the universe.

1.3 Family

Sam Neill married make-up artist Noriko Watanabe in September 1989. They met on the set of Dead Calm in 1987 and have subsequently worked together on several movies including Death in Brunswick and The Jungle Book . She continues to have an active career outside of her husband's, working on other projects, especially in Australia, including the 1994 Australian Film Institute Best Picture Muriel's Wedding and director P.J. Hogan's American film My Best Friend's Wedding. In 1983, Neill had a son, Tim, with actress Lisa Harrow. Tim spends time with both his parents. Lisa Harrow is now married to a marine biologist. Noriko Watanabe has a daughter named Maiko who is a couple of years older than Tim. Neill and Watanabe have another daughter Elena, born in 1990. The family resides in Sydney although Neill retains his New Zealand citizenship. In addition, because of British citizenship laws and Neill's birth in Northern Ireland, Neill retains British citizenship as well. The family also has a residence in Otago, and vineyards near Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. The vineyards sell Pinot Noir under the registered trademark Two Paddocks. For more information visit the Two Paddocks Web site. Mr. Neill guards his privacy fiercely and we respect that, encouraging anyone reading this FAQ to do the same.

1.4 How do I contact him or join the mailing list? (Info on agent, Sam Neill Appreciation Society, mailing list)

Sam Neill's American agent is Ed Limato of International Creative Management. He can be reached at the following address:

International Creative Management
8942 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

For information about joining the Sam Neill Appreciation Society and Mailing List, visit the Contact and Fandom Page.
Information: Auf Deutsch, En español, En français, Na russkom

All fan mail should be labeled "Fan Mail" and can be sent to him at the following address:
Mr Sam Neill
Shanahan Management Pty Ltd
P.O. Box 1509
Darlinghurst  NSW 1300

For information about Two Paddocks Vineyards (owned by Sam Neill), please visit the Two Paddocks Vineyards Website. You'll find lots of information about the wines, how to order it and additional contact information for the vineyard.

For information about Huntaway Films (co-owned by Sam Neill), please visit the Huntaway Films Website.

1.5 Biography Credits

The biography was written by Erika Grams using sources available in the public domain. Contributions also came from members of the Sam Neill mailing list. Quotes came from several articles listed in the Sam Neill bibliography. Special acknowledgment should go to the following articles:

"Sam Neill" by Tamara Martyn in Pacific Way, June 1992.
"Who the Heck is Sam Neill?" by Anne Thompson in Entertainment Weekly , July 23, 1993
"Neill Appeal" by Kirsty Cameron in Who Weekly, August 23, 1993

Many special and heartfelt thanks to the best friend (as well as being a great and cool Kiwi) anyone could have: Howard Silby. Additional thanks go to Chriss Green for her comments and support and, of course, to Mr. Neill.

2.0 Filmography

A complete filmography which includes plot descriptions, video availability, links, and more, is available in the Filmography section of the web pages (divided into sections covering appx. five years: 1974-1979, 1980-1984, 1985-1989, 1990-1994, 1995-1999, 2000-2004). The list below is made available for people who want a simple listing of all of his films and television work. They are in chronological order. Guide to listing: F=Full-length Feature, S=Short Film, TVM =Made for Television Movie, TVS=Television Series, MS =Mini-Series (Television)

2.1 Acting Roles

2.2 Directed Films

2.3 Other Activities

2.4 Awards and Honors

2.5 How can I find or get copies of these films or the audiobook?

Most films listed as "On Video" in the Filmography pages can be ordered through your local video store, companies like SunCoast or through web-based video stores.

3.0 What else can you tell me about him?

3.1 Miscellaneous trivia

3.2 Actresses he has worked opposite of

Sam Neill has been fortunate enough to work opposite some of the most talented and most beautiful actresses of this era. Of course, he has worked opposite great male actors and with great directors as well, but these are the women whose characters he romanced: AND, even though his characters did not specifically romance these women, we feel obliged to put them in any list of most talented and beautiful:

3.3 Separated at Birth? (Famous figures sometimes confused with Sam Neill)

Comments, Suggestions, Additions, Corrections? Email me at

Copyright © Erika Grams 1995-2003 / Thanks to for hosting this site and for technical assistance. Additional thanks to Kevin Nicastro for years of help and assistance!