Sam Neill Online - Quotes


"I know It's hard to understand, but I don't want to be recognised in the streets. I'm not interested in that sort of fame. I look on acting as a craft, one in which I want to improve constantly."

                                                                 TV Times September 1-7, 1979

"Film is totally intimate; anything less than the real thing sticks out like a sore thumb. It's more to do with internalising than externalising. The nice thing about it is that the lines are the least important thing; It's what's not being said that counts."

                                                                 TV Times September 1-7, 1979

"I met the Pope at the end of filming A Man From A Far Country. It was a very moving experience for me. He gave me a rosary, which I now keep with me in my briefcase. I think it might help with all the flying and jet-setting around the world an actor does in this business."

 

                                                                 Film Review November 1981

On his 10-month-old son:
"He has made an enormous difference to my life. It has expanded in a way which I would never have expected. I've gone soppy about him. He is an extremely well-behaved fellow. . . very amusing.

                                                                 Women's Weekly March 1984

"I'd like to be a successful actor in America, but I have no desire to be a celebrity."

                                                                 New Idea March 8, 1986

"Part of me sees life in a very similar way to Kane. I don't believe in inherited wealth or dynastic families, but there is a part of me that's puritan.

"Kane isn't too far removed from my experience. My family were merchants. I was supposed to be one of them, but it all went terribly wrong and I became an actor."

                                                                 New Idea March 8, 1986

"[Australia's] quite different from America," continues Neill, sitting in his New York hotel suite. "People like stars here." The actor, who is an Australian by way of New Zealand by way of Northern Ireland, claims that his own countrymen "don't like you to get too smart, or do too well. I think that explains why a lot of Antipodeans are sort of self-deprecating. It's a self-defense mechanism." So, does he purposely keep his head out of scythe's reach? "Yeah," he says, laughing, "but I think that's my style, anyway."

                                                                   US December 12, 1988

"The one thing about my parents is my father is a gentleman and my mother is the equivalent, what would you call it? a gentlewoman?, so they're nice to each other, they're well mannered to each other. We don't bother as much about manners as we used to. And manners are just as important with people who are close to you as they are with strangers."

                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

"We're increasingly becoming part of a world culture, part of a world ecoculture too. The more we lose our grip on absurd notions like nationalism, the more we begin to see ourselves as part of the human race, part of the wider system rather than a little bit of it which we call our own. I think nationalism is the most dangerous thing in the world.

                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

"I'm mad about architecture and we just built this house in Central Otago in New Zealand and it's a beautiful place. I've been involved in architecture one way or another all the time. I made a couple of documentaries about architecture. It's something I find very involving. It is diametrically opposite to what an actor does. A good performance is totally ephemeral. It's something that evaporates, even performance on film has very temporary life. Whereas in architecture, you build something that you're stuck with forever, good or bad. It's standing, it doesn't move - an actor moves; a building is totally inanimate.

                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

". . . I saw a doco on highschool children in America. There were a lot of alarming things about it and I'm sure these kids have a lot in common with kids in Australia. But all of them wanted to be a success. And that in itself struck me as being a bit sad because how many people can be a success? Half a per cent of us? What is a 'success' anyway? Nobody said 'I want to be happy'. I would have thought that was a much more realistic and indeed much more worthwhile thing to want to be. They want to be a success and what they meant by being successful was making a lot of money. The phrase is 'they wanted to make it'. Make what?

"I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say I enjoyed material things. But they're not crucial to my existence at all. I think my family, they're crucial to my existence, and enjoying what I do. As long as I'm happy with what I do. I'm not driven to be the best."

                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

"I had to be perfectly honest with Michael and say 'no, I'm not in any way religious' when he asked me'". That's not to say I'm an unspiritual person. I think all of us are spiritual to a greater or lesser extent."

                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

"I don't believe anyone is entirely good or bad. I think even the best of us is capable of evil and even the worst of us, the worst criminals, are capable of doing good things. Human beings are flawed.

                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

"I think the best work I've done in some ways - that's assuming I've ever done any good work and that's debatable - and it's not necessarily the best context, was a couple of years ago in a 15-hour mini-series called Amerika.

"I played a KGB colonel, very smart, who loves power and loves manipulating power. I hate that sort of thing. He's a very complex man and sees, for instance, that in some circumstances, in order to achieve a wider good, you have to do things that are bad in the short run. I actually don't think that's defensible at all. He's totally committed to the Soviet system but on the other hand, is obsessively attacted to things that are Western and decadent. I think it's a complex performance."
                                                                  Follow Me Gentlemen February 1989

"I was 29 when I started acting seriously. Until then, even though I was doing some acting, I was still working for the National Film Unit doing documentaries, which was fine, and I was reasonably confident and did some films that were okay, but I wasn't an innovator of the documentary form."

                                                                 Elle March 1990

On The Hunt for Red October:
"The only problem was that it was all boys. I particularly like working with girls. I prefer it. There are more interesting dynamics between men and women. I think men have more interesting relationships with women; whether it's platonic or even sexual, it's much more interesting than what's between men. Working with men, you feel like you're working alongside them, as if you're going along parallel lines; working with women, you're working opposite them and that's much more interesting.
                                                                 Elle March 1990

On Meryl Streep:
I heard Jack Nicholson quoted as saying, 'there's Brando, there's Streep.. .and then there's all the rest of us.' Not bad.

                                                                 Elle March 1990

I like Greenpeace. I see no point in being polite about survival.

                                                                 Elle March 1990

On playing Karl in Death in Brunswick:
"I am more fond of this film than anything I have ever done," he says. "Often I am cast as a person who is in charge of things. I am usually a bloke who gives commands and has absolute certainty about where he is going. But most of us are actually wildly out of control. It's sort of nice to see a person on the screen who is muddling along just like everybody else."

                                                                 HQ February 1991

On The Final Conflict:
"Things weren't done with as much panache as they were in the first one," he opines. "The other problem was that there is something more basically frightening about a child who is evil than a grown-up. An adult who is evil is banal and everyday. We're surrounded by these people all the time. But you don't see many evil 6-year-olds."

                                                                 Fangoria April 1992

On the US version of Possession being cut from 127 min to 81 min:
"I'm sure it makes no sense at all," he remarks. "It's outrageous when people start cutting other people's films. I mean, you don't go around cutting up paintings. It may be a bad painting or a good painting, but you don't go chopping bits out of it because it's too big or it's kind of offensive to some people."

                                                                Fangoria April 1992

On Dead Calm:
According to Neill, there was much more footage shot of his character's battle for survival on the sinking ship, including a subplot involving a hungry shark, but the final version pared his dilemmas down considerably.

"You can see the vestiges of it in the film," he hints. "The boat becomes a sort of horror vessel for me. In the original cut, you wanted to cheer when I burnt the boat at the end. It was pretty extreme stuff, and they decided it all didn't quite mesh into the tenor of the rest of the film."

                                                                 Fangoria April 1992

"Whatever I'm doing I treat seriously, and try to have fun at the same time." he concludes. "I don't limit myself to any area of the cinema. I'm not a particular fan of any type. I just like good movies."
                                                                 Fangoria April 1992

On people learning their sexual behaviour from movies:
"Well, I think their lives are going to be somewhat impoverished as a result because, you know, human relationships and sexual relationships are much more varied and interesting and complex than anything I've seen on the screen."

                                                                 Women's Weekly June 1992

"I'm very interested in what it is to be human. Being human involves things we're usually shown in the cinema - courage, love, all those splendid things, as well as more vile things, like violence. But there are other aspects of human behaviour I think are touching, lovely and, above all, funny. There've always been film-makers who have looked at those areas, but the big studios in Los Angeles are incapable of examining those oddities of human life because they have to make big commercial products to make big bucks."

Not that Sam has anything against big studio, LA films. "I enjoy going to work at the same time as most people go to work and coming home at the same time as most people come home - there's something to be said for making a studio-based film."

                                                                Women's Weekly June 1992

"Did you ever see 'Twilight Zone: the Movie'? There's a segment about a guy, played by John Lithgow, on a plane, sitting in the window seat. They're flying through an electrical storm. He sees a demon on the wing and it starts to dismantle the wing. No-one can see it but him. Well, I was flying into Hawaii once, on my own. I had a window seat. And we were flying through an electrical storm. I looked out the window - I didn't see any demons, but it was just as bad. The plane was all over the show, and I thought we were going to be hit by lightning. It was really horrible. People were screaming' and I thought immediately of that film and I felt like John Lithgow.

"Well, we land all right and I go straight to the lounge for a nervous pee, still in a terrible sweat. There's one other person in there. I look over and it's John Lithgow, also having a nervous pee. He'd been on the same plane."

                                                                Women's Weekly June 1992

"You must keep your feet on the ground in this business - it could all end tomorrow."

                                                                Woman's Day September 1992

"Any time spent away from your children is heartbreaking," he says. And that is why, whenever possible, the family travels with him.

                                                               Woman's Day September 1992

 

Personally, he thinks he's closer to hapless, bumbling and nervous Carl Fitzgerald of Death in Brunswick than any of the others. "Of all the characters I've played I think I have more in common with that guy than certainly with Reilly, Ace of Spies," he says on a bright winter afternoon in Sydney recently. Empathising with Carl got him into trouble, though, when he told a British newspaper last year that he connected with Carl's pre-sex nerves. The next day a bold quote greeted him: "Sam Neill: I am not very good in bed". "You have to be so careful what you say because it's not what I meant at all," he says, then laughs at what he's just said. "What I was trying to say was that, y'know, sex is kind of funnier and more ridiculous than what you see onscreen, which is why I liked those scenes in Brunswick."

                                                                Who Weekly August 23, 1993

 

"I don't regard myself as political at all. I'm not affiliated to any party, but if I see something I think is wrong then I think it's my duty to say so," he says.

 

                                                                Who Weekly August 23, 1993

 

On The Piano:
I did see
The Piano about two months ago and it had an overwhelming emotional effect on me which I still can't quite get to grips with.  Just seeing the pain my character goes through, the agony and ecstasy of it all, affected me very strongly.  It's the kind of film I've always wanted to do -like the love story that you've always fantasised about.

                                                                Film Review September 1993

 

I think - but don't tell anyone - you really cannot work an actor too hard. It's not like being a coal-miner. There's a lot of sitting around in caravans. It's not the most onerous job in the world. After all, most people work 49 or even 50 weeks in year. Last year, I worked 50 weeks or something and I don't think there's anything particularly exceptional about that. I feel like I'm working at capacity - and I'm enjoying it. When I stop enjoying it, I'll take a holiday. Really, I couldn't be more happy about the ways things are going.
 

                                                               Film Review September 1993

 

You refuse many films?
If they're boring - or nasty shoot-em-ups. My agent might consider them lucrative and career-enhancing but there has to be something in it for me. But I still work a lot and I love what I do. No man could ask for more than to be able to do what he loves.

                                                               Film Review September 1993

 

"I'm not religious at all, but if I were, I would be a Quaker. They took all the performance out of it. No costumes, no slogans, no performance with the audience responding . . . I'm very suspicious of performance used for anything but entertainment. That's why I distrust evangelists the most."

 

                                                               Elle September 1993

 

"I worry about the planet and have been involved in Greenpeace and CNQ. I suppose both these organisations are pretty political, but I think if you're alive today you have to be political. In addition I've got my kids to think about."
 

                                                               Candis June 1994

 

On his children:
"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."

                                                               New Idea March 4, 1995

 

"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."

                                                               New Idea March 4, 1995

 

On what angers him:

"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."
 

                                                               New Idea March 4, 1995

 

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

                                                               New Idea March 4, 1995

 

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."

                                                               New Idea March 4, 1995

 

On Cinema of Unease:

"If it irritates the government and gets up their nose, that's great," Neill says with a laugh. 'It's not a personal attack and I'm definitely not a buff or a critic. I just put into the film what I found. It's a sort of self-styled road movie of my thoughts on architecture, Empire, sheep, education, madness, myself, everything and especially the country's film industry."

                                                               Film Review August 1995

 

"The job of the leading man is the hardest of all. The easiest job is to play the villain because you have things to hang your various hats on, or you've got a limp or a squint or a bad back like Richard III. My mother always sighs and her eyes roll to the ceiling and she says: 'I know you will be another baddie'. But it's underrated how much fun you can have playing bad characters. It's great to play one of those really bad buggers!"

                                                               Film Review August 1995

 

"I'm not about to buy a place in Los Angeles. I'd rather commute there. I feel Hollywood is a necessary evil, rather than an enticing magnet. It's a factory town where it's rather like living on site."

                                                                Film Review August 1995

 

"I really like Australia; I think it's one of the great parts of the world. There are few great cities in the world, and from my perspective, Sydney is probably the best. It's a reasonably safe place to live; the climate is equitable; there's sufficient culture to keep you stimulated; the pollution ain't bad; you can go to the beach and swim in terrific surf and you can eat well."

 

                                                                New Woman August 1997

 

"I take issue with journalists who like to lull actors into feeling they're on a psychiatrist's couch. And I don't like having to think of strategies in order to make myself an intriguing character. I don't think it's anyone else's concern, nor is it of the remotest interest to me, what terrible abuse some actor has been subjected to as a child. It's a terrible burden for an actor to have to develop an interesting persona, unless it's as a character in a movie. I've worked all my life to shed myself of any character. Have you noticed?"
 

                                                                 Movieline Dec/Jan 1998

 

"I am deeply into pop culture, especially pop music. I think Dion's 'The Wanderer,' for me the great '60s rock and roll song, will probably endure much longer than most of the stuff we actors do. Pop music is like the sense of smell-the most potent trigger for memories. Anyway, I was at one of these Oscar parties and I was so excited to meet Mick Jagger, I blurted out, 'Mick, I've always wanted to meet you. I saw you at such-and-so in 1964. . .' and immediately his expression completely changed and he snapped, 'Great,' or something like that. I went and buried my head in my hands. How could I be so inane?"

 

                                                                 Movieline Dec/Jan 1998

 

On making Jurassic Park:

"It's the big effects that are of interest," says Neill, "so making it was sometimes funny. For one scene particularly, there was a guy running around holding up a big plywood T-rex head on a stick like someone carrying a placard at a political demonstration, and meanwhile, there was Spielberg behind the camera yelling, 'Arggghhh, arggghhh,' through a bullhorn, which he absolutely loved doing. I don't think you can see us heaving with laughter."

 

                                                                 Movieline Dec/Jan 1998

 

"Without question it's a tough business on relationships," he asserts. "You really have to think seriously about what it means to be a 'husband.' You have to go the extra mile. It's not so much just that temptation is all around you, because as far as I'm concerned, anyway, that's not an issue. It's absence. Absence is difficult."

 

                                                                 Movieline Dec/Jan 1998

 

"I always get a kick out of being in Los Angeles with my family," he says. "I mean, this is where Brian Wilson comes from. And Frank Gehry. The one thing I find sad when I come to Los Angeles, though, is realizing that the world here is populated by millions of people who want to be actors and never will be. It's unbearably sad to live your life and not be able to do what you really want. And it's a particularly American thing, I think, to advise people to follow their dreams. You ought to be very careful about advising such things, because people have all kinds of entirely unrealistic dreams. As a result, so many people here think of themselves as losers, which is the worst thing you can be called in America. If you divide society into winners and losers, 98 percent of the people will feel like losers. That attitude is particularly prevalent among athletes. You know how it is: win a race and thank God for assisting you past that post. What kind of God is it that picks you to be a winner and everyone else to be a loser? I dread the Olympics coming to Sydney. I can't bear the thought of all those people coming and having medals stuck on them, while the others are sent back to obscurity."

 

                                                                 Movieline Dec/Jan 1998

 

"Before I was an actor full time, which wasn't until the end of the seventies, I directed around 10 documentaries. It's something that is very difficult to do now, because it's very hard to raise money for them. It was wonderful- the idea of being given a subject or talking them into allowing you to do something that you wanted to do. Then you would just go away and make it and if you were still making it a year later, no-one seemed to worry... "

 

                                                                 Vogue March 1998

 

"In the course of a career, to what extent you can actually choose and not choose comes and goes a bit. Sometimes I've done things because there has been nothing else to do, to be honest. Occasionally, I've been spoiled for choice and made the wrong decision and other times things have just come right...The random factor is something that is scary, but also enjoyable."

 

                                                                  Vogue March 1998

 

"I'm a lot more tactile with my children than my parents were... they were rather English, that's all. I don't feel obligated to be that way, I just enjoy it. I have a lot of fun with my kids, they are good people to hang out with."

 

                                                                  North&South September 1998

 

"Hah. What do you have to do to be a real New Zealander. Is it because I've been away for a little bit, or because I wasn't born here? You know my family has had its feet in the soil here since 1850-something. When does your real New Zealand thing start kicking in - that's what I want to know."

 

                                                                 North&South September 1998

 

"To those people who say it's all downhill after 50, I say stick it up your bum. I don't think we should put up with that."

 

"My teens were 'teeny' and mixed. My 20s as a documentary maker were better. I really enjoyed my 30s when I realised I was going to have a crack at working in the cinema and my 40s were the best yet so I have no reason but to believe my 50s will be better still."

                                                                 North&South September 1998

 

About his wife Noriko:
"I remember I opened the door and there she was. I thought she was the most marvellous thing I had ever seen in my life and I fell in love with her on that day and I continue to be enthralled with her in exactly the same way."

 

                                                                 North&South September 1998

 

And while the detail of his personal life is for the most part locked away - "I can't talk about my children for security reasons" - he does, every now and then, reveal insights into a character which is genuinely warm and reflective. "My children mean everything. I get far more from my children than they get from me," he says frankly, then falls into silence.

                                                                 Sunday Magazine August 27, 2000

 

"I think I was well brought up," he reflects. "(My parents) taught me manners, consideration for others. They taught me about ethics, a thousand things. An appreciation of landscape, how to fish. A certain work ethic. I think people of that generation were hard working. They'd been through the Depression. They never took anything for granted."

                                                                 Sunday Magazine August 27, 2000

 

"Diversity is a wonderful thing. I actually think one of the things that makes Australia an interesting place is that there are so many different cultures rubbing up against each other and blending, learning from each other. I was reading in the paper a couple of weeks ago that something like 50 per cent of Australians are married to Australians which I think is terrific. A cosmopolitan country is a much more interesting one than a monoculture."

 

                                                                  Sunday Magazine August 27, 2000

 

"It's intoxicating being in love, but it's not the same thing as being a loving person," he says quietly. "It's an ongoing work of a lifetime to learn to be a loving person."

 

                                                                  Sunday Magazine August 27, 2000

 

How would you describe your style?
Scrappy and disreputable. I was described once, rather patronisingly, as "can scrub up". I'm pretty conservative; I tend to look for something that's not going to make me look too stupid. On the other hand, I love a bit of Mambo-love the loud shirts. Those terrible dog T-shirts. You make friends all over the world with those.

 

                                                                  In Style November 2000

 

Is there anyone whose style you admire?
I can't think of anyone whose got style any more. You've got to be suspicious of people on best-dressed lists. Some bloody stylist has got hold of them. They have consultants who come along and buy their suits and ties. What sort of world is that? It's the kind of world where you have a dog and someone else walks it for you.

                                                                  In Style November 2000

 

I read that art is one of your passions.
I'm a serious collector of art. When I say serious, it's more like a serious gambler. It's kind of an affliction-I lie about it, I sneak off and buy things without telling anybody. I need therapy. I think I have a very good collection of New Zealand painting and a smaller quite good collection of Australian painting. I tend to buy contemporary art.

                                                                  In Style November 2000

 

You are often in LA. How do you feel about living there?
If you spend too much time there you start thinking all that matters is show business, and nothing could be further from the truth. It's of little consequence in the world wide scheme of things and in the map of your own happiness. But it's fun to go there and dip your toe in once in a while. If I'm around, I like to go to the Oscar parties: put on a bow tie and step out.

 

                                                                  In Style November 2000

 

I'm decidedly a Kiwi. I'm very pleased with my British connections but my father was a New Zealander and that's where I live now. I'm always very happy to get home. We're now planting our third vineyard and we just picked the grapes from our fifth vintage. I travel too much so it's very satisfying to be back on one's own soil.

                                                                 Women's Weekly May 28, 2001

 

I think I'm in a very lucky position. I work at pretty good levels in cinema but my life is still my own. A lot of my friends can't leave the house without being pursued but I can do what I want and move freely.

 

                                                                 Women's Weekly May 28, 2001

 

On the BBC six-part series called Space:

"I knew bugger all about space, prior to this," he says, with a smile. "And I still know very little, but I have a few nuggets of information I can bring out at dinner parties. That's about the extent of it. I just wondered whether or not I could maintain the impression of being brainy for six half-hours."

 

                                                                  Film Review August 2001

 

On the action figure from Jurassic Park III:

"It doesn't look anything like me," Sam says, chuckling, motioning over his lean 183cm frame. "It looks as if Alan Grant has been abusing steroids for the last 10 years, because he's an absolutely obscene muscular chap with a rather small head."

                                                                 Women's Weekly September 2001

 

As for his film choices, "I just take it as it comes," he says. "And I'm always pathetically grateful to be working at all. I don't have any particular pretensions about what's worthy and what's not.

 

"Like in any job, there are 10,000 people who could do it just as well, if not better. If you do get to have a break in this business, you're very bloody lucky. Very lucky indeed. It does somewhat amuse me when I see people who've done two or three films and feel that they're entitled to everything." He chuckles. "No, I've never felt any sense of entitlement."

 

                                                                 Women's Weekly September 2001

 

You've done such diverse roles as a voice for The Simpsons to playing the Antichrist. What are your criteria for choosing roles?

Yeah, it is pretty diverse. There's a lot to be said for diversity. It would be a mistake to find yourself channelled into one kind of role, plus people would get sick of watching you do the same bloody thing all the time. The other thing is, it simply makes it more interesting for me to go to work. Just to think about a different way of going about things.

                                                                 Empire November 2001

 

There's part of me that was, is and will continue to be a fan. It's one of the hidden bonuses in what I do that not only do I get to meet and hang out with these people, but I actually play with them too - cos that's what you're really doing. Actors aren't called players for nothing.

 

                                                                 Empire November 2001

 

'Don't swallow. You'll get drunk,' says Sam Neill, pointing to the sink where I should discharge my mouthful of his Two Paddocks 1999 Pinot Noir. It seems rude to spit out such fine red wine in front of such a generous host, in his own home, but it is 11am, and we've got a winding car journey to Neill's winery and three tiny vineyards in southern New Zealand ahead of us. The actor (and now winemaker) gives his glass a swirl. 'One thing you can say about Two Paddocks is that it does get you pissed. I thought this could be our slogan at one time. "Two Paddocks - it gets you pissed.'

 

                                                                 The Observer Food Monthly April 2002

 

We burst out of Neill's workshop into the brilliant New Zealand light. He points out a blue heron that flaps up from his pond and pauses to remonstrate with his sun-loving Staffordshire bull terrier - with 'a face only a mother would love' - for not keeping the rabbits out of his garden. She's called Fire. 'We inherited the name. Calling "Fire" around the neighbourhood causes consternation.'

 

                                                                 The Observer Food Monthly April 2002

 

'Food and wine are about conviviality,' he says. 'You wouldn't want to drink wine in isolation. I've got so many great friends in all different comers of the world. There is always some idiot who is up for a bottle of wine, wherever you are.'

 

                                                                 The Observer Food Monthly April 2002

 

Neill admits that he could not live off his three little vineyards. There is a saying in New Zealand: 'How do you make a millionaire? Give someone two million and tell them to open a vineyard.' Pinot is a low-yielding vine, the grapes are hand-picked, and Neill focuses on quality not quantity. 'One day it will look after itself,' he says, but right now he is not unduly bothered by his losses. He is more concerned when retailers sell it above the NZ$39 (£12) he suggests. 'I have seen it for sale at NZ$100, which enrages me. I've always admired Morgan, the English car company, because when Mr Morgan was asked why he didn't sell the car for a higher price, he said: "Otherwise the wrong people would drive it." I'd hate to think my wine was only being drunk by property developers.'
 

                                                                 The Observer Food Monthly April 2002

 

On Jurassic Park III:

"There were some things we had to do in the course of making this film that terrified me. At one point they dropped us from 50 feet into the water and I don't like heights and that was a long way down. I hated that."

 

                                                                  DVD Now April 2002

 

My idea of a good time is staying at home reading a book.

 

                                                                  DVD Now April 2002

 

On whether he plays an instrument?
Ukulele, not seriously though. It's impossible to play the ukulele seriously, it's not a serious instrument.

                                                                  DVD Now April 2002

 

You've been vocal recently about genetic modification of food in New Zealand.

I feel that we are being rushed into something. No-one's been able to prove to me that releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment is 100 per cent safe. And it's clear that very few people want to eat potatoes that are part toad or tomatoes that are part fish. Why grow stuff people don't want to eat?

 

                                                                  Who July 29, 2002

 

"I've divided my time fairly unequally between the land of the long white cloud and America. I have spent more than my share of time in Hollywood, and that is a town where, unfortunately, bad behaviour is rewarded. Stardom means pushing the boundaries of taste. The big boys are quite bad. You ask about stardom - there's no such thing. Reputation and status are the currency in Hollywood. There's something that George Miller said and it's awfully true - 'in Hollywood, the more demanding you are, the more respect you earn'. I haven't ratcheted my status up by being more demanding than I have a right to be. You hear some of those La La horror stories - requests for gold-plated trailers! I'm happy with a little room and a ukulele. Unfortunately when it comes to the Jurassic Park films you end up getting some of those gold-plated things without asking. It's bad for the soul."

                                                                  Filmink November 2003

 

On My Brilliant Career:

"They gave me a beautiful looking horse that was completely out of its mind. It was a racehorse from Victoria and it could only turn left because it was used to going one way around a racetrack. It couldn't turn right. If you wanted to turn right you had to revolve 270 degrees."

                                                                  Who December 1, 2003

 

On his wife Noriko:

"I fell in love with her when I first spotted her and I followed her around like a pathetic dog for months, hoping that she'd throw me a bone. And eventually, after months of pathetic persistence, of debasing myself, she took pity on me. We were on Hamilton Island, which was good because she couldn't get away." They married in 1989 and have a daughter, Elena, 13 (Watanabe has another daughter, Maiko, 22, and Neill a son, Tim, 20, with actress Lisa Harrow).

 

                                                                  Who December 1, 2003

 

On The Piano:

"There's something about me and an axe that still makes women flinch as I walk down the road," says Neill of the Jane Campion classic. "I tell you what, that little Holly Hunter, she's only the size of a flea but she's strong as an ox. I had to drag her out to the chopping block through that mud and she conceded nothing. I had to drag her for real. By Take 2, I cannot tell you how tired I was. I said, 'Look, I'm not really going to chop your finger off, Holly. Give us a break!' The funny thing is even though I'd trust her with my life, when we were doing those scenes Holly insisted I have a rubber axe ... Fred Schepisi always says, 'Christ, I would've taken off the whole hand!' "

                                                                  Who December 1, 2003

 

"But there are times with one's children you want to shout, though of course it's counterproductive, so you may as well forget it. Anyway, they don't take any notice. So why bother?"

                                                               Sunday Life September 11, 2005

 

"I used to go to the gym as a fanciful anthropological exercise. It was very intriguing from an actor's point of view but I'm not big on pumping iron."

 

                                                                Sunday Life September 11, 2005

 

"They've given me sourdough. I'd hate to be allergic to wheat because bread is one of the great pleasures of life and it's a great vehicle for jam," delivering the word theatrically. So he is a jam man. "Mmmmmm, yes, I love it. My favourite is dark bitter marmalade."

                                                               Sunday Life September 11, 2005

 

His monologue usage is well-honed to deflect tricky topics. It simply won't do. I return to his children. For instance, Jeremy Irons did a film with his son - would Neill? He goes into a long Pinteresque silence, then, "I'd never encourage or discourage. It's a cruel profession. However successful, your life is littered with bad reviews and rejections by producers." That's awfully bleak for a man who starred in the aptly titled My Brilliant Career as well as Jurassic Park and The Piano. "No, that's a fact. You need a thick skin to get through. I rather like tenderness and vulnerability in people." So he has lost that? "I hope not entirely." He still has it, then? "Who knows? That's not for me to say." (I could kill him. Everyone raves about his charm but no one mentions his irritating modesty.)

 

                                                               Sunday Life September 11, 2005

 

The PR is back. "Ten-minute warning," she blasts. So it's quick-quick from now on. How often has he been in love? "Pass." Does he fall in love easily? "In the past, yeah." Is he self-righteous? "No. Tolerance is important." Is he impatient? "With fools and scoundrels." Would he watch someone load the dishwasher and then say they've done it badly? "No, I'd encourage someone to load the dishwasher." Obviously he thinks he is a pretty wonderful person, I say, and that sends him off again into paroxysms.

 

"Ab-so-lute-ly, I am the bee's knees. Of course not. I'm as flawed and as fallible as anyone else." Well, he should know, he is blessed with this insight of himself. "Hahahahahahaha! You're very contentious. I'm terrified what the tenor of this interview will be when it's on the page. I'm going to look like some kind of puffed-up bloody guru!"

                                                               Sunday Life September 11, 2005


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