Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill DCNZM OBE (born 14 September 1947), known professionally as Sam Neill, is a Northern Irish-born New Zealand actor who first achieved leading roles in films such as Omen III: The Final Conflict and Dead Calm and on television in Reilly, Ace of Spies. He won a broad international audience in 1993 for his roles as Alisdair Stewart in The Piano and Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, a role he reprised in 2001's Jurassic Park III. Neill also had notable roles in Merlin, The Hunt for Red October and The Tudors. In 2016, he starred in Hunt for the Wilderpeople alongside Julian Dennison, to great acclaim. He holds New Zealand and British nationality, but identifies primarily as a New Zealander.
Neill was born in 1947 in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, the second son of Dermot Neill, a Harrow- and Sandhurst-educated British Army officer and third-generation New Zealander, and his English wife, Priscilla Beatrice (née Ingham). At the time of Neill's birth, his father was stationed in Northern Ireland, serving with the Irish Guards. His father's family owned Neill and Co., the largest liquor retailers in New Zealand.
In 1954, Neill returned with his family to New Zealand, where he attended the Anglican boys' boarding school Christ's College in Christchurch. He then went on to study English literature at the University of Canterbury, where he had his first exposure to acting. He then moved to Wellington to continue his tertiary education at Victoria University, where he graduated with a BA in English literature.
In 2004, on the Australian talk show Enough Rope, interviewer Andrew Denton briefly touched on the issue of Neill's "very bad" stuttering. It affected most of his childhood and as a result he was "hoping that people wouldn't talk to [him]" so he would not have to answer back. He also stated, "I kind of outgrew it. I can still ... you can still detect me as a stammerer."
Neill first took to calling himself "Sam" at school because there were several other students named Nigel, and because he felt the name Nigel was "a little effete for ... a New Zealand playground".
After working at the New Zealand National Film Unit as a director, Neill was cast for the lead role in 1977 New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs. Following this he appeared in Australian romance My Brilliant Career (1979), opposite Judy Davis.
In the late 1970s, his mentor was James Mason. In 1981 he won his first big international role, as Damien Thorn, son of the devil, in Omen III: The Final Conflict; also in that year, he played an outstanding main role in Andrzej Zulawski's cult film, Possession. Later, Neill was also one of the leading candidates to succeed Roger Moore in the role of James Bond, but lost out to Timothy Dalton. Among his many Australian roles is playing Michael Chamberlain in Evil Angels (1988) (released as A Cry in the Dark outside of Australia and New Zealand) about the case of Azaria Chamberlain.
Neill has played heroes and occasionally villains in a succession of film and television dramas and comedies. In the UK he won early fame, and was Golden Globe nominated, after portraying real-life spy Sidney Reilly in mini-series Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983). An early American starring role was in 1987's Amerika, playing a senior KGB officer leading the occupation and division of a defeated United States. His leading and co-starring roles in films include thriller Dead Calm (1989), two-part historical epic La Révolution française (1989) (as Marquis de Lafayette), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Death in Brunswick (1990), Jurassic Park (1993), Sirens (1994), The Jungle Book (1994), John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Event Horizon (1997), Bicentennial Man (1999), and comedy The Dish (2000).
Neill has occasionally acted in New Zealand films, notably The Piano (1993), Perfect Strangers (2003), Under the Mountain (2009), and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). He returned to directing in 1995 with documentary Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) which he wrote and directed with Judy Rymer.
In 1993, Neill co-starred with Anne Archer in Question of Faith, an independent drama based on a true story about one woman's fight to beat cancer and have a baby. In 2000, he provided the voice of Sam Sawnoff in The Magic Pudding. In 2001, he hosted and narrated a documentary series for the BBC entitled Space (Hyperspace in the United States).
He portrayed the legendary wizard in Merlin (1998), a miniseries based on the legends of King Arthur. He reprised his role as Merlin in the sequel, Merlin's Apprentice (2006), in which Merlin learns he fathered a son with the Lady of the Lake.
Neill starred in the historical drama The Tudors, playing Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. "I have to say I really enjoyed making The Tudors", Neill said, “It was six months with a character that I found immensely intriguing, with a cast that I liked very much and with a story I found very compelling. It has elements that are hard to beat: revenge and betrayal, lust and treason, all the things that make for good stories."
He acted in the short-lived Fox TV series Alcatraz (2012) as Emerson Hauser. He played the role of Otto Luger in the fantasy adventure movie The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2014). He is currently starring in the new BBC series Peaky Blinders, set in post-World War I Birmingham. He plays the role of Chief Inspector Chester Campbell, a sadistic corrupt policeman, who has come to clean up the town on Churchill's orders. In the 2015 BBC TV miniseries And Then There Were None, based on Agatha Christie's thriller, he played the role of General MacArthur.
In 2016, he starred in the New Zealand–made film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi, as well as the ITV miniseries Tutankhamun.
Neill has one son, Tim (born in 1983), by New Zealand actress Lisa Harrow. He married makeup artist Noriko Watanabe in 1989 and they have one daughter, Elena (born in 1991). He also has a stepdaughter, Maiko Spencer (born 1982), from Noriko's first marriage.
Neill lives in Queenstown and owns a winery called Two Paddocks made up of a vineyard at Gibbston and two near Alexandra, all in the Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island. Neill's hobby is running Two Paddocks. "I’d like the vineyard to support me but I’m afraid it is the other way round. It is not a very economic business", said Neill, "It is a ridiculously time- and money-consuming business. I would not do it if it was not so satisfying and fun, and it gets me pissed once in a while."
Neill also has homes in Wellington, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia. He is a supporter of the Australian Speak Easy Association and the British Stammering Association (BSA). He supports the New Zealand Labour Party and the Australian Labor Party. He is a patron of the National Performance Conference and donated a pair of jeans to the Jeans for Genes auction; they were painted by artist Merv Moriarty and auctioned in August 1998.
He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1991 for his work as an actor.
Neill has been appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM). When knighthoods were returned to the New Zealand Honours System in 2009, those with DCNZM or higher honours were given the option of converting them into knighthoods. Neill chose not to do this, saying the title of Sir was "just far too grand, by far".
Neill was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Canterbury in 2002.
|1979||Just Out of Reach||Mike|
|Journalist, TheThe Journalist||Rex|
|My Brilliant Career||Harry Beecham|
|1981||Omen III: The Final Conflict||Damien Thorn|
|From a Far Country||Marian|
|1982||Ivanhoe||Brian de Bois-Guilbert|
|Attack Force Z||Sergeant D.J. (Danny) Costello|
|1984||Blood of Others, TheThe Blood of Others||Bergman|
|The Country Girls||Mr Gentleman|
|1985||Robbery Under Arms||Captain Starlight|
|1986||For Love Alone||James Quick|
|1987||Good Wife, TheThe Good Wife||Neville Gifford|
|1988||Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark)||Michael Chamberlain||Won the AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role|
|1989||Dead Calm||John Ingram|
|Révolution française, LaLa Révolution française||Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette|
|1990||Hunt for Red October, TheThe Hunt for Red October||Captain Vasily Borodin|
|Shadow of China||TV reporter||Credited as John Dermot|
|1991||Death in Brunswick||Carl 'Cookie' Fitzgerald||Nominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role|
|Until the End of the World||Eugene Fitzpatrick|
|1992||Rainbow Warrior, TheThe Rainbow Warrior||Alan Galbraith|
|Memoirs of an Invisible Man||David Jenkins|
|1993||Piano, TheThe Piano||Alisdair Stewart||Nominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role|
|Jurassic Park||Dr. Alan Grant|
|1994||Country Life||Dr. Max Askey|
|The Jungle Book||Colonel Geofferey Brydon|
|In the Mouth of Madness||John Trent|
|1995||Restoration||King Charles II|
|1996||Children of the Revolution||Nine|
|1997||Event Horizon||Dr. William Weir|
|Snow White: A Tale of Terror||Lord Fredric Hoffman|
|1998||Horse Whisperer, TheThe Horse Whisperer||Robert MacLean|
|Sweet Revenge||Henry Bell|
|1999||Molokai||Walter Murray Gibson|
|Bicentennial Man||'Sir' Richard Martin|
|2000||My Mother Frank||Professor Mortlock||Nominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role|
|Dish, TheThe Dish||Cliff Buxton|
|The Magic Pudding||Sam Sawnoff||Voice role|
|2001||Jurassic Park III||Dr. Alan Grant|
|Zookeeper, TheThe Zookeeper||Ludovic||Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for Best Actor|
|2003||Perfect Strangers||The Man|
|Little Fish||The Jockey|
|2008||Dean Spanley||Dean Spanley|
|2009||In Her Skin||Mr. Reid|
|Iron Road||Alfred Nichol|
|Under the Mountain||Mr. Jones|
|2010||Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole||Allomere||Voice role|
|2011||The Dragon Pearl||Chris Chase|
|Hunter, TheThe Hunter||Jack Mindy||Nominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role|
|2012||Vow, TheThe Vow||Bill Thornton|
|2013||Escape Plan||Dr. Kyrie|
|The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box||Otto Luger|
|2014||United Passions||João Havelange|
|A Long Way Down||Jess's father|
|The Daughter||Walter Finch||Nominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role|
|2016||Hunt for the Wilderpeople||Uncle Hec|
|Tommy's Honour||Alexander Boothby|
|The Commuter||In post-production|
|2018||Peter Rabbit||Old Mr McGregor||Filming|
|1982||Ivanhoe||Brian de Bois-Guilbert|
|1983||Reilly, Ace of Spies||Sidney Reilly||12 episodes |
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
|1985||Kane & Abel||William Lowell Kane|
|1986||Strong Medicine||Vince Lord|
|1987||Amerika||Colonel Andrei Denisov|
|1991||One Against the Wind||Sergeant James Liggett|
|1993||Family Pictures||David Eberlin|
|1994||The Simpsons||Malloy||Voice role |
Episode: "Homer the Vigilante"
|1996||In Cold Blood||Agent Alvin Dewey|
|1998||Merlin||Merlin||Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie |
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
|The Games||Citytrans CEO||Episode: "Transport"|
|2000||Sally Hemings: An American Scandal||Thomas Jefferson|
|2001||Submerged||Lt. Cmdr. Charles B. 'Swede' Momsen|
|2002||Doctor Zhivago||Victor Komarovsky|
|Jessica||Richard Runche||Logie Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series |
Nominated – AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama
|2005||The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant||Governor Arthur Phillip||2 episodes|
|To the Ends of the Earth||Mr. Prettiman||3 episodes|
|The Triangle||Eric Benerall||3 episodes |
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television
|Two Twisted||Mick||Episode: "Von Stauffenberg's Stamp"|
|2007||The Tudors||Cardinal Thomas Wolsey||10 episodes |
Nominated—Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama Series
Nominated—Monte-Carlo Television Festival Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
|2008–2010||Crusoe||Jeremiah Blackthorn||14 episodes|
|2009||Happy Town||Merritt Grieves||8 episodes|
|2009||bro'Town||Himself||Episode "To Sam with Love", Voice|
|2010||Rake||Dr Bruce Chandler||Episode: "R v Chandler"|
|2012||Alcatraz||Emerson Hauser||13 episodes|
|2013–2014||Peaky Blinders||C.I. Campbell||12 episodes|
|Harry||Jim "Stocks" Stockton|
|2014||Old School||Ted Macabe|
|2014||House of Hancock||Lang Hancock|
|2015||And Then There Were None||General John Gordon Macarthur|
|2016||Why Anzac With Sam Neill||Himself||Documentary, wrote and produced|
|2016||New Zealand: Earth's Mythical Islands||Narrator||Documentary series, 3 episodes|