Well, Judy Davis
might have won two British Academy Awards for "My Brilliant Career".
But it's her handsome leading man Sam
Neill who's wound up with the big international movie break. Thanks to the
enthusiastic boosting of James Mason.
When Mason saw the hugely successful Australian film in Los
Angeles last year, he was so impressed with Sam that -
quite unsolicited - he wrote off to various overseas film producers recommending
the 32-years-old New Zealand
The result was that Sam was taken to London
to play the leading role in "THE
FINAL CONFLICT" - third (and last) of the "Omen" thrillers.
Sam is topbilled over an international cast that includes Rossano Brazzi and Lisa
In "The Final Conflict", Sam portrays Damien Thorn
- the fiendishly evil Anti-Christ who is out to fulfil the Biblical prophecy by
precipitating the terrible end-of-the-world holocaust known as Armageddon.
Damien first appeared in "The Omen" (1976) as an
angelic-looking five-year-old (played by young Harvey Stephens), whose presence caused the deaths of just about
everybody around him including his parents Gregory
Peck and Lee Remick.
The Son of Satan was a teenager (played by 14-years-old Jonathan Scott Taylor) when he next
appeared in "Damien - Omen II" (1978), in which he discovered his
true identity and mission. Once again, everyone around him was killed off -
including uncle and aunt William Holden
and Lee Grant.
Now, in "The Final Conflict", we find the adult
Damien - now a grown man of 33 - is about to embark on his diabolical mission.
As head of the gigantic Thorn Industries, advisor to the President of the United
States, and newly-appointed American
Ambassador to Great Britain,
he prepares to use his lofty position to bring the world to the brink of chaos.
In London, the
new American Ambassador is interviewed by television journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow). She is so completely
captivated by Damien's apparent warmth and charm that she fails to see the
sinister and dangerous influence he is having on her 13-years-old son Peter (Barnaby Holm).
There are only two things that can stop the evil
Anti-Christ. One is a baby born when three stars conjoin overhead. The other is
the seven daggers of Meggido with which he can be killed.
The daggers are discovered in the ruins of the Old
in Chicago, which Damien had burned
down around the heads of his second family. The knives find their way into the
hands of seven monks dedicated to destroying the Son of Satan.
Led by Father De Carlo (Rossano
Brazzi), the seven monks set out from their crumbling Northern Italian monastery
and head for London. Six monks each
try to kill Damien with one of the sacred daggers. One by one, they fail and
are overcome by the demonic powers of evil.
Damien learns that the long awaited Second Coming has indeed
There is a new Saviour born. In a perverted echo of Biblical
times, Damien orders his henchmen to have all babies born at the same time
killed to ensure the destruction of the new Messiah.
When Father De Carlo learns of the horrifying plan, he
enlists Kate's aid. At first, she refuses to believe that she and her son have
come under the shadow of the actual Anti-Christ. Finally, she realises that she has but one choice - to help Father De
Carlo stop Damien once and for all.
The mission takes De Carlo and his disciples from London
to Cornwall, where Damien is taking
part in a fox hunt, and then to a suspense-filled climax at the spectacular
ruins of Fountains Abbey, a 12th Century monastery in North
Yorkshire. Its eerie remains - ghostly, yet majestic and
awe-inspiring - provide a perfect setting for the climax of Damien's crusade of
"If there ever WAS an Anti-Christ", says producer Harvey Bernhardt, "to have a large
following, he would have to be the most handsome, charismatic, brilliant,
wealthy, and popular leader in the world. Damien Thorn is all these and
Finding a handsome and charismatic actor to portray Damien
nearly drove Bernhardt crazy. "I must have seen just about every young
actor there is", says Bernhardt. "I'd spent six months on a talent
hunt - without success".
Then came James Mason's letter recommending Sam Neill. Bernhardt invited Neill to London
for a screen test. "As soon as I saw him on film, I knew I had found the
actor I was looking for".
Though his family are New Zealanders, Sam was actually born
in Northern Ireland,
where his father was serving in the British Army. Sam was eight years old when
the family moved back to New Zealand.
Sam started acting while at the University
of Canterbury, and then spent a
year touring New Zealand
with a repertory stage company. In 1971, he moved into films, combining acting
and directing with the New Zealand National 'Film Unit.
Along the way, Sam played the lead in three New
Zealand feature films. One of these was the
thriller "Sleeping Dogs", and when this was screened in Sydney,
producer Margaret Fink and director Gill Armstrong cast him as Harry
Beecham in "My Brilliant Career".
It was at this point that Sam became what he calls "an
Australian from New Zealand".
He remained in Australia
to star in two more feature films (including "Z Force") and
television shows (including "Lucinda
Brayford") before his role in "The Final Conflict" took him
He has two outstanding memories of working in England.
"It's cold", he grins. "And I've never been called 'Sir'
Sam still lives in his old renovated terrace house in the
inner Sydney suburb of Paddington. But
he sees less of it these days because of continual movie acting offers from
overseas producers. The latest has taken him to France
to star in the thriller "Enigma" with Martin Sheen.
"As long as I can return to Sydney
between assignments, I will happily travel the globe wherever the work takes
me", says Sam. 'The Final Conflict" should add many more stamps to