New Idea - March 4, 1995



Too lazy to say 'NO'

Sam Neill takes on a host of vastly different roles, but says family and home come first


Now that Sam Neill and his family are calling Sydney home, he is more determined than ever to keep his private life out of the public realm.

"It's just common sense," he says. "And in addition to that there's nothing to know.

"You just have to keep your closest relationships sacred. There's just something sacred and invaluable about them.

"So while I'm happy to say how old my kids are, that's it, because they don't have a say in any of this. They are their own individuals. They have their own lives and their own views about things."

Sam and his Japanese wife Noriko Watanabe have a four-year-old daughter Maiko. Noriko's elder daughter Elena is now 13, and Sam's son Tim (with British actress Lisa Harrow) is 12.

"I don't think it's good if their privacy is constantly invaded," says Sam, 48. "They travel around a lot and their lives get disrupted. The more I can keep their lives relatively normal, the better."

The children are not particularly impressed with their father's film fame and on the home front his work gets barely a mention.

"I'm much more interested in them then they are in me, I think," chuckles the Irish-born New Zealander. "And quite right, too!"

Even so, Sam's role in Jurassic Park was a high point. "It's horrible to have a father that you say is an actor but has never been in a film your friends have heard of," he explains. "So it came as a great relief to my kids when they finally had dinosaurs to talk about."

As the father of three youngsters, Sam says it makes him cross to find so very few family films offered on the international menu.

"It's a rainy day, you're going to take your kids to the movies, what are you going to take them to?" he asks. "It's actually very difficult. I just don't think there's enough films made for small people.

"Part of the reason The Lion King and Aladdin have been successful is there's nothing much around. I was happy to do Jungle Book because it's a film you can take your kids to see and I think that's to be supported."



Sam will soon be seen in Country Life, the Australian adaptation of Uncle Vanya; Restoration, the British comedy starring Meg Ryan, Robert Downey jnr and Hugh Grant; and Victory, in which he plays an opium addict.

It seems strange that family man Sam takes on so many roles.

"I'm basically a very idle person by disposition," he says. "I do find myself working a lot, which surprises me and I can't really account for it. I'm too lazy to say 'No'. It's just easier to go along with it and get on the plane."

Actor Sam really flips out in his new horror spectacular In The Mouth Of Madness, in which he plays a cynical insurance investigator trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of world-famous author Sutter Cane, whose terrifyingly demented and hypnotic novels sell better than the Bible.

Sam's foray into this world ultimately has him headed for the straightjacket, but he says he had a barrel of laughs pretending to be crazy.

"It's scary and incredibly funny. It makes me laugh from the beginning till the end. I like the sort of psychological thriller part.

"I'm not a horror film fan particularly. I hate those sort of slasher films. . . they're dumb and dangerous. I like properly scary films, not schlocky ones. This is much more fun.

"If violence in a film makes you sick, then that's the appropriate response - but if it looks fun and glamorous to blow people away, then I think it's irresponsible filmmaking and really wrong.

"Some of these action films where people get blown away distress me, whereas in The Piano the most hideous piece of violence is perpetrated by my character and it's incredibly shocking and disturbing, which is what violence should be if it's right."

Sam is also known for his social conscience. Asked what angers him, he replies: "Governments washing their hands of responsibility for education and health care. If you haven't enough money, tough luck. It's not so bad in Australia, but New Zealand has been really been shafted."

What Sam truly treasures are his close friends, such as Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown. But that is about it.

"I'm pretty much a homebody," he says. "You have to get me out with a crowbar these days. . . and it's getting worse."

Overall, Sam figures he is exactly where he is supposed to be in life.

"Acting's about the only thing I would have been any good at," he says. "And let's not be too self-effacing. I think I'm smart and I think you need a tad of talent. I've got a little bit of both. . . and enough sort of cunning to make my way in the world."

Sue Russell




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