The Sunday Mail - August 19, 2001

 

 


Actor Sam Neill, back for another thrill ride in the third part of Steven Spielberg's
Jurassic Park saga, makes a rather startling admission about his brilliant career.

"I have never been a movie star. I am a good working actor and I am never out of work, which gives me satisfaction. But I am not a movie star," he said in Los Angeles on the eve of the world premiere of JP3.

"And for that I am grateful. It is not fun being a movie star." Neill, 53, born in Ireland and raised in New Zealand, is being modest.

Few actors have anywhere near his resume, which includes My Brilliant Career (1979) with Judy Davis, A Cry in the Dark (1988) with Meryl Streep, The Piano (1993) with Holly Hunter, Sirens (1994) with Elle Macpherson, and The Horse Whisperer (1998) with Kristin Scott Thomas.

Neill has been in films with major men as well - Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Robin Williams, Robert Downey Jr, Hugh Grant, Billy Zane. But he likes the love story.

"I do love stories from time to time. The Piano springs to mind. . I was opposite that romantic hunk Harvey Keitel," he said, tongue firmly in cheek.

Neill's success with big-budget blockbusters has enabled him to work on small, independent films throughout the world, including Australia, where he made last year's local megabit, The Dish.

"I don't really have any conscious game plan about my movie choices. I find it's better not to take your career too seriously.

"Be serious about your work, but don't be serious about your career.

"I kind of ricochet from one project to another in a rather shambolic manner. I do like to mix it up. The next thing I do will be as different as I can possibly make it from the last one. And probably in a place I haven't been before. . . that is a major consideration."

But, as the urbane Neill points out, we are at Universal Studios, surrounded by dinosaurs, to discuss his role as Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic Park 3.

Neill/Grant (pictured) starred in the original Spielberg dino-flick in 1993 but was not in the 1997 sequel.

"I was not angry that I was not in the second movie. It was clear I wasn't going to be in it because my character wasn't in the book. I am sure (author) Michael Crichton bitterly regrets that now... I am kidding.

"Don't take anything I say seriously. It's just the way we are in New Zealand."

Neill thanked his late father for "having the good sense" to take the family back to New Zealand when he was a seven-year-old boy.

"I am glad that he did because it is a very nice place to grow up."

He joked with journalists about the fact that Australians liked to claim him as their own, similar to Russell Crowe.

But back to Jurassic Park.

Dr Grant, who vowed never to return to the dino-infested island off Costa Rica, is tricked into going back by a wealthy couple (Tea Leoni and William H. Macy) in search of their son, who has been stranded there.

From the opening scene, it is a 90-minute terror-packed encounter, but forget the storyline. And the dinosaurs are bigger, better and badder than the previous two JP movies.

The film makers wanted to give the tyrannosaurus rex, the tyrant of the first two movies, a run for its money and introduced the larger, even more vicious spinosaurus. It's a massive carnivore with the snout of a crocodile, the biggest meateating dinosaur that ever lived.

The film features a savage battle between the spino and the veteran T-rex,which has been reskinned for its third appearance in the series.

"Clearly things have progressed immensely since the first one," says Neill. "These are much more sophisticated dinosaurs than the ones I was working with first time around.

"That's not only because technology has advanced enormously with computers, but also the animatronic world. We also know more about dinosaurs than we used to. There have been great strides in paleontology.

"I think the dinosaurs are more three-dimensional than they used to be. My particular satisfaction with this film is that the human characters are more three-dimensional, too. I think it's the best of the three."

Neill's female fans will love his portrayal of the suave Dr Grant.

"Alan is not quite the wide-eyed innocent that he was in the first film. He is more the reluctant action hero this time. It's less 'what a wonderful, marvellous, awesome place this is'. It's more 'let's get the hell out of here'."

The film hadn't even hit theatres when there was talk of another sequel. The ending of JP3 certainly leaves that option open.

"I would certainly be very happy to go back for a Part 4. But I think it would take tremendous ingenuity on the part of the scriptwriters to get Alan Grant back. I can't think of any reason why the poor old bugger would get back on that island again."

After JP3 he has two more films on the go: The Zookeeper, shot in the Balkans, and another as-yet untitled movie in New Zealand with director Gaylene Preston.

"I am about to go home to start another film. It is a small, dark love story, just three characters, broody, moody New Zealand thing, completely different from this (JP3). We should start shooting in September.

"The Zookeeper could easily be a New Zealand film, except that it is set in the Balkans. It is not sweetness and light, this love story, in fact it is a tad scary. It will be out some time this year."

 

 

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