TV Week (Australian Edition) - May 16, 1987



Sexy Sam plays with fire

He risks his suave image in his latest role as a womanizer


HE'S been called "the thinking woman's sex-symbol" and "every woman's fantasy".

With that sort of hype it's not hard to understand why Sam Neill is a sought-after name.

The unabashed adulation he receives is something that clearly has him bemused and, at times, embarrassed. In fact, during the shooting of his latest movie, The Umbrella Woman, which opens nationally this week, a female admirer trailed after him, openly declaring her infatuation.

It wasn't Lisa Harrow, the actress with whom he shares a house in London and the mother of his four-year-old son, but a happily married 35-year-old Queensland artist, Davida Allen.

Davida, winner of the 1986 Archibald Prize, arrived on location with her husband Michael and their young children and proceeded to pursue the object of her publicly proclaimed passion.

The result of Davida's adoration is a series of erotic paintings and drawings which have gone on display in the U.S.

Coincidentally, The Umbrella Woman is a film about a married woman's unbridled passion and sexual obsession for a stranger.

The film stars husband and wife Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward as Marge and Sonny Hills with Sam Neill as Neville Gifford - the stranger - a charming and highly successful womaniser who becomes the object of Marge's uninhibited obsession.

The Umbrella Woman's director Ken Cameron says he understands Sam was initially very reluctant to take on the role of Neville.

"He might have been concerned that he would be confronting some side of his personality he didn't like. I don't know what it was. Actors are a mysterious lot.

"The character he plays is so treacherous with all those women - and such a phoney. It was Jan Sharp (the producer) who talked him into it - and I know he enjoyed doing the movie."

Sam, however, claims Neville is a wonderful character because "he's not just a sleazebag but multi-layered".

He has some sympathy for Neville who, perhaps, like Sam, attracts women, despite himself.




The Umbrella Woman is about a woman who feels there's something exciting missing in her life," Cameron says.

Cameron maintains The Umbrella Woman is an unsettling film because what this story is saying is any man, no matter how well he treats his wife, can lose her to the next stranger who steps off a train.

The film was released in the U.S. earlier this year, but Cameron was disappointed with its treatment.

"Sexually, the film is quite bizarre (Marge's husband gives his consent for her to sleep with his younger brother) and the Americans have always had a problem with unusual films," he says.

"At one stage they were going to call it The Adultress. I hated the idea of that, but I didn't like them calling it The Good Wife either.

"They marketed the film as if it was a ribald movie - 'She's Hot, she's sexy. . . The Good Wife.'.

"It's as though she could either be a slut or a pure woman - "there was nothing in between."

Rachel Ward says of her first reading of the script: "I couldn't put it down. I cried at the ending."

Bowraville, where the film was shot, so captivated Rachel and Bryan that they bought an old farmhouse on the coast nearby.

"Even now, when I go into Bowraville, I half expect to see Neville on the balcony," she says.

Patrice Fidgeon




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