How wrong can you be? Most movie fans would swear that actor
Sam Neill is Australian or possibly a New Zealander.
The fact is however, that Sam who was recently voted the
most popular actor in Britain
and selected by readers of The Daily Express as the man they would most like to
play James Bond, is from Northern Ireland.
The late James Mason was a great fan and was instrumental in
Sam getting the lead role as Damien in "Omen III - The Final
Conflict", the last chapter of the "Omen" trilogy. Mason's faith
in his protege, who strongly resembles him in many ways, was justified by
Neill's satanic performance as the devil incarnate.
Sam was born in 1948 and, at the age of 8, his family moved
from Ulster to
their nativeNew Zealand.
His interest in drama developed at boarding school and after completing studies
at the Universities of Canterbury and Victoria, he spent a year with the
touring Players Drama Quintet and two years with the Amamus Theatre. Sam joined
the New Zealand Film Unit in the early 70s where his interests widened to film
editing and directing, as well as acting.
He then shifted his talents across the Tasman and worked in
Australian television in shows like' 'The Sullivans" and "Lucinda
Grayford". He also got leading roles in the films "Ashes",
"Landfall" and "Sleeping Dogs".
But it was the prophetically titled "My Brilliant
Career" that really launched both he and co-star, Judy Davis into the big
time and won them international acclaim.
In 1980, Sam went to England
for "Omen 3", then on to West Berlin where he
played opposite the beautiful Isabelle Adjani in "Possession", and
followed up with "From a Far Country" and "Enigma" in Poland
and then French director, Claude Chabrol cast him in "The Blood of
More fame came in the TV series "Reilly, Ace of
Spies" in Britain,
America and, of
course, his homeland. The much-travelled Mr Neill then went back to Ireland
to play the role of Mr
Gentleman in Edna O'Brien's "The Country Girls"
and more recently was seen in Australia
as Captain Starlight in "Robbery Under Arms".
1986 looks like being Sam Neill's big year. He starts off
starring opposite Meryl Streep in "Plenty", the film adapted from the
David Hare play and directed by Australia's Fred Schepisi. Sam plays the
pivotal role of Lazar, a Special Operations Executive whose brief encounter
with a Resistance Worker (Streep) has a lasting impression on her life
thereafter. He follows "Plenty" with a lead in Margaret Fink's
romantic drama "For Love Alone" based on the book by Christina Stead
and also starring Helen Buday and Hugo Weaving.
In private life, Sam is married to actress Lisa Harrow who
appeared with him in "Omen 3".
He has spread his talents wide and now says that he intends
to be much more selective in what he does and he hopes this will include
Sam Neill is a name that will be on everyone's lips in 1986.
His star is definitely rising.