THE VOICE is deep and deliberate. Sam Neill is on the line,
calling from Canada.
It is early there and he has made time between breakfast and an appointment on set
with his current co-star, Anjelica Huston, to talk about his role as John
Rennie in the made-for-TV movie Hostage.
Sam Neill took a short cut to stardom when, by chance in
1979, he was cast in My Brilliant Career.
He hasn't stopped working since, and last year was awarded an OBE.
But he insists that he's just a working actor. "You
must keep your feet on the ground in this business - it could all end
tomorrow," he says.
This looks unlikely for Sam, who has just finished two films
in New Zealand.
He plays a policeman in The Sinking of
the Rainbow Warrior, and in Piano
Lessons he stars as a farmer who has an arranged marriage to a Scottish
mute, played by Holly Hunter.
He dotes on his female co-stars. "Holly Hunter was
lovely and Anjelica is heaven to work with.
"I remember when I made Reilly - Ace of Spies all those years ago. Director Martin Campbell
said he always liked it when I worked with women. And I have to say I like
working opposite strong women. I do my best work with women."
Sam has a passionate love scene with former Bond girl Talisa
Soto in Hostage, which has not yet
been scheduled for television in New Zealand.
"Every actor dreads bed scenes," he says.
"But I liked Talisa enormously and we got on very well, which made those
scenes easier than they may have been."
Sam shrugs off any suggestion that on-screen passion will
endanger his marriage to Japanese make-up artist Noriko Watanabe, chief make-up
designer on Hostage. "It's
nothing Noriko and I have to cope with, because it's our work," he says.
They met when working on the movie Dead Calm in 1989 and married that year. They have an 18-month-old
daughter, Elena. Neill is also stepfather to Noriko's daughter Maika, 10, from
her first marriage. His son, Timothy, 9, from his long-term relationship with New
Zealand actress Lisa Harrow, lives in London
with his mother.
Neill's character Rennie is forced to leave his children. "Any time spent
away from your children is heartbreaking," he says. And that is why,
whenever possible, the family travels with him.
Story: Katie Ekberg