Movie 86 Number 1






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 Others".

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 directing.

Sam Neill is a name that will be on everyone's lips in 1986. His star is definitely rising.




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