SOME actors may think twice about sharing the billing with
two children, a goat and a six-metre high Tyrannosaurus rex. But, as Sam Neill
points out, when the director is Steven Spielberg and the film is the monster
movie Jurassic Park, it's foolish to turn down the
part just because of the adage about never working with animals and children.
"When someone like Steven asks you to be in his film,
the reaction's pretty automatic," says Sam, who jumped at the chance to
play fossil expert Dr Albert Grant. He was happy to share the limelight not
only with a herd of alarmingly life-like model dinosaurs, but also with nine-year-old
Joey Mazzello and Ariana Richards (12).
"You do hear some awful stories about child
stars," admits Sam, who has a 10-year-old son, Timothy, by actress Lisa
Harrow, and a baby daughter with his wife Noriko. "But the ones on this
film were very nice and we had a good time together."
Despite the hype surrounding the film, its huge impact took
even the actors by surprise. "The cast has been overwhelmed by the film's
success," says Sam.
Steven Spielberg needed all his persuasive charm to help Sam
overcome his fear of heights during the filming of one key scene in the movie.
"I was supposed to look scared about climbing the tree
- and I wasn't just acting," Sam recalls. "It was wet, dark and
slippery, and I was really afraid of falling."
While he has climbed to dizzy heights in his career, Sam -
who was christened Nigel Neill when he was born in Ulster
and then moved to New Zealand
with his family - says he lacks drive and ambition.
"I'm quite lazy. I have no self-discipline or
motivation," he smiles, sheepishly. "I'm not sure I have any major
ambitions as an actor. I'm as famous now as I want to be. I really don't want
to become a bigger name."
For someone who claims to be such an unambitious lazybones,
he's been pretty busy of late.
He stars in The Piano,
which won the Palme D'Or, The Sinking of
the Rainbow Warrior, Family Pictures
with Anjelica Huston, and the Australian film Sirens, which features Elle Macpherson, minus her clothes. As if
that isn't enough, there's already talk of a sequel to Jurassic
Park. The actors have been asked to
sign contracts agreeing to make themselves available for at least two more
"I feel I'm working to capacity and I'm enjoying
it," smiles Sam (45). "Luckily, I really love my job, the money and
the travel that goes with it."
His dark, striking good looks have featured in 22 film roles
so far, including My Brilliant Career,
Dead Calm and The Omen III. Yet he dismisses his appearance, saying, "I'm
just an average sort of guy; average face, average height, nothing special to
As self-deprecating remarks go, this is one which is just
crying out to be contradicted by Sam's vast horde of female fans.
- ANGELA LORD