Sam Neill

Nigel John Dermot Neill DCNZM OBE (born 14 September 1947), known professionally as Sam Neill, is an Northern Irish-born New Zealand actor, writer, producer, and director. By family tradition, he enjoys an avocation as vigneron. Born in Omagh, Northern Ireland, he moved to Christchurch, New Zealand with his family in 1954.[1] Neill first achieved recognition with his appearance in the 1977 film Sleeping Dogs, which he followed with leading roles in My Brilliant Career (1979), Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession (both 1981), A Cry in the Dark (1988), Dead Calm (1989), and The Piano (1993). He came to international prominence as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park (1993).[2]

Sam Neill

Neill in 2010
Nigel John Dermot Neill

(1947-09-14) 14 September 1947
ResidenceQueenstown, New Zealand
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
EducationChrist's College, Christchurch
Alma materUniversity of Canterbury
Victoria University of Wellington
  • Actor
  • writer
  • producer
  • director
  • vineyard proprietor
Years active1970−present
Lisa Harrow
(m. 1980; div. 1989)

Noriko Watanabe
(m. 1989; separated 2017)
Children4 (including one stepdaughter, one son given up for adoption)

Outside of film, Neill has appeared in numerous television series, including Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983), Merlin (1998), The Tudors (2007), Crusoe (2008–2010), Happy Town (2010), Alcatraz (2012), Peaky Blinders (2013–2014) and Rick & Morty (2019). He has also presented and narrated several documentaries.

Neill is the recipient of the Longford Lyell Award and the New Zealand Film Award and also the Logie Award for Most Outstanding Actor. He has three Golden Globe and two Primetime Emmy Award nominations.[3] He lives in Queenstown and has three children and one stepchild.

Early life

Northern Ireland

Neill was born in 1947 in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, to Priscilla Beatrice (born Ingham) and Dermot Neill. His father, an army officer, was a third-generation New Zealander, while his mother was born in England.[4] His great-grandfather Percy Neill left Belfast in Northern Ireland for New Zealand in 1860, settling in Dunedin. He was the son of a wine merchant importing wine from France.[5][6]

At the time of Neill's birth, his father was stationed in Northern Ireland, serving with the Irish Guards.[7] His father's family owned Neill and Co. (later part of the listed hospitality group Wilson Neill).[8][9] Neill holds British and Irish citizenship through his place of birth, but identifies primarily as a New Zealander.[10]

New Zealand

In 1954, Neill moved with his family to New Zealand, where he attended the Anglican boys' boarding school Christ's College, Christchurch. He went on to study English literature at the University of Canterbury, where he had his first exposure to acting. He 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 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."[11]

He 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".[11][12][13]

Acting career

New Zealand

Neil's first film was a New Zealand TV movie The City of No (1971). He followed it with a short, The Water Cycle (1972) and the TV movie Hunt's Duffer (1973). Neill wrote and directed a film for the New Zealand National Film Unit, Telephone Etiquette (1974). He was in Landfall (1976).

Neill's breakthrough performance in New Zealand was the film Sleeping Dogs (1977), the first local movie to be widely seen abroad.


Neill went to Australia where he had a guest role on the TV show The Sullivans. He was the romantic male lead in My Brilliant Career (1979), opposite Judy Davis; this film was a big international success.

He made some Australian films that were less widely seen – The Journalist (1979), Just Out of Reach (1979) and Attack Force Z (1981), and appeared in television productions like Young Ramsay and Lucinda Brayford.

International career

In 1981 he won his first big international role, as Damien Thorn, son of the devil, in Omen III: The Final Conflict;[14] also in that year, he played an outstanding main role in Andrzej Żuławski's cult film, Possession.[14]

Later, he was 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),[15] a film 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 the 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 the thriller Dead Calm (1989),[14] the two-part historical epic La Révolution française (1989) (as Marquis de Lafayette), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Death in Brunswick (1990),[14] 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 the comedy The Dish (2000).[14]

Neill has occasionally acted in New Zealand films, including The Piano (1993), Perfect Strangers (2003), Under the Mountain (2009), and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). He returned to directing in 1995 with the documentary Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) which he wrote and directed with Judy Rymer.

In 1993, he 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 eponymous wizard in Merlin (1998), a miniseries based on the legends of King Arthur. He reprised his role in the sequel, Merlin's Apprentice (2006).

Neill starred in the historical drama The Tudors, playing Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. "I have to say I really enjoyed making The Tudors", he said,[16] "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."[16]

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[17] (2014). He had a role in the BBC series Peaky Blinders, set in post-World War I Birmingham. He played the role of Chief Inspector Chester Campbell, a sadistic corrupt policeman, who came 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. In 2017, Neill appeared in a scene in Waititi's fantasy sequel Thor: Ragnarok, in which he portrays an actor playing Odin (as depicted by Anthony Hopkins), alongside Luke Hemsworth and Matt Damon as actors playing Thor and Loki, respectively.

In 2018, he portrayed Mr. McGregor and also the voice of Tommy Brock in Peter Rabbit. In 2019, he was cast for the role of Denis Goldberg in Escape from Pretoria; however, the role was subsequently recast with Ian Hart.

Personal life

From about 1980 to 1989, Neill was in a relationship with actress Lisa Harrow.[18] They have a son, Tim, born in 1983. Neill subsequently married make-up artist Noriko Watanabe in 1989 and they have one daughter, Elena (born in 1991). Neill separated from Watanabe in 2017,[19][20] and as of early 2018 was dating Australian political journalist Laura Tingle.[21][22][23][24]

He is also stepfather to Maiko Spencer, a daughter from Watanabe's first marriage.[25] In his early 20s he fathered a son, Andrew, who was adopted by someone else. In 2014, Neill said the two "went looking for [one another]" and that their reunion was "much more grown-up" than expected.[26]

Neill lives in Queenstown and owns a winery called Two Paddocks, consisting of a vineyard at Gibbston and two near Alexandra, all in the Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island.[27] His avocation 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,[16] "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."[16] He enjoys sharing his exploits on the farm through social media.[28] He names his farm animals after film-industry colleagues. His farming exploits can be seen on his Twitter account @TwoPaddocks.[29]

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[30] and the Australian Labor Party.


He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1991 for his work as an actor.[31]

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. He chose not to do this, saying the title of Sir was "just far too grand, by far".[32]

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Canterbury in 2002.[33]



1977Sleeping DogsSmith
1979Just Out of ReachMike
The JournalistRex
My Brilliant CareerHarry Beecham
1981Omen III: The Final ConflictDamien Thorn
From a Far CountryMarian
1982IvanhoeBrian de Bois-Guilbert
Attack Force ZSergeant D. J. (Danny) Costello
EnigmaDimitri Vasilikov
1984The Blood of OthersBergman
The Country GirlsMr Gentleman
1985Robbery Under ArmsCaptain Starlight
1986For Love AloneJames Quick
1987The Umbrella WomanNeville Gifford
1988Evil AngelsMichael ChamberlainWon the AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1989Dead CalmJohn Ingram
La Révolution françaiseGilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
1990The Hunt for Red OctoberCaptain Vasily Borodin
Shadow of ChinaTV reporterCredited as John Dermot
1991Death in BrunswickCarl 'Cookie' FitzgeraldNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Until the End of the WorldEugene Fitzpatrick
1992The Rainbow WarriorAlan Galbraith
Memoirs of an Invisible ManDavid JenkinsNominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
HostageJohn Rennie
1993The PianoAlisdair StewartNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Jurassic ParkDr. Alan Grant
SirensNorman Lindsay
1994Country LifeDr. Max Askey
The Jungle BookColonel Geofferey Brydon
In the Mouth of MadnessJohn Trent
1995Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam NeillNarrator
RestorationKing Charles II
1996Children of the RevolutionNine
VictoryMr. Jones
1997Event HorizonDr. William Weir
Snow White: A Tale of TerrorLord Fredric Hoffman
1998The Horse WhispererRobert MacLean
Sweet RevengeHenry Bell
1999MolokaiWalter Murray Gibson
Bicentennial Man'Sir' Richard Martin
2000My Mother FrankProfessor MortlockNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The DishCliff Buxton
The Magic PuddingSam SawnoffVoice role
2001Jurassic Park IIIDr. Alan Grant
The ZookeeperLudovicFt. Lauderdale International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
2002Dirty DeedsRay
Leunig AnimatedNarrator
2003Perfect StrangersThe Man
WimbledonDennis Bradbury
2005GallipoliNarratorVoice role
Little FishThe Jockey
2008Dean SpanleyDean Spanley
SkinAbraham Laing
2009In Her SkinMr. Reid
Iron RoadAlfred Nichol
Under the MountainMr. Jones
DaybreakersCharles Bromley
2010Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'HooleAllomereVoice role
2011The Dragon PearlChris Chase
The HunterJack MindyNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
2012The VowBill Thornton
2013Escape PlanDr. Kyrie
The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas BoxOtto Luger
2014United PassionsJoão Havelange
A Long Way DownJess's father
2015BacktrackDuncan Stewart
The DaughterWalter FinchNominated – AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
2016Hunt for the WilderpeopleUncle Hec
Tommy's HonourAlexander Boothby
Sweet CountryFred Smith
2018The CommuterCaptain David Hawthorne
Peter RabbitMr. McGregor
Tommy Brock (voice)
2019Palm BeachLeo
2019Ride Like a GirlPaddy Payne
2021Jurassic World 3Dr. Alan GrantPre-production


Year Title Role Notes
1980 Lucinda Brayford Tony Duff Four-part miniseries
ABC Television, Melbourne Australia
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"
1995 Forgotten Silver Himself
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 Space Himself Documentary series
2001 Submerged Lt. Cmdr. Charles B. 'Swede' Momsen
2002 Doctor Zhivago Victor Komarovsky
Framed Eddie Meyers
2004 Stiff Lionel Merricks
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
2006 Merlin's Apprentice Merlin
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
bro'Town Himself Voice role
Episode: "To Sam with Love"
2010 Rake Dr Bruce Chandler Episode: "R v Chandler"
2011 Ice Anthony Kavanagh
2012 Alcatraz Emerson Hauser 13 episodes
2013 Harry Jim "Stocks" Stockton
2013–2014 Peaky Blinders Major Chester Campbell 12 episodes
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
New Zealand: Earth's Mythical Islands Narrator Documentary series, 3 episodes
Tutankhamun Lord Carnavon
Country Calendar Himself Episode: "Film Noir"
2019 Rick and Morty[34] Monogatron Leader Voice
Episode: "The Old Man and the Seat"

See also


  1. "Sam Neill in Uncharted territory with new series". New Zealand Herald. 4 August 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  2. Yasharoff, Hannah (25 September 2019). "Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill to return for 'major roles' in 'Jurassic World 3'". USA Today. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  3. Awards for Sam Neill on IMDb
  4. Beck, Chris (2 September 2004). "The interview". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  5. "New cellar door pops up in Neill's life" by Louise Scott, Otago Daily Times, 6 January 2016
  6. "My life: Sam Neill" by Susan Jung, South China Morning Post, 21 April 2013
  7. Condon, Eileen (8 May 2001). "Dishy Sam's got space aspirations; For an actor fascinated by space travel Sam Neill must have thought he'd landed a dream role with his new film, The Dish. The Omagh-born actor talks to Eileen Condon about his latest role". The News Letter. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  8. James Beech (4 March 2014). "Vineyard named in honour of father". Otago Daily Times.
  9. Annabel Wilson (21 November 2017). "Obituary: Otago businessman Robert Wilson remembered as food industry pioneer".
  10. Interview, Radio Times, 11–17 October 2014
  11. "Sam Neill". Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. Australia. 7 June 2004. ABC. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  12. Erika Grams. "Sam Neill – FAQ". Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  13. "Nigel, Neville??". 5 October 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  14. For Your Consideration: Sam Neill for the FANGORIA Hall of Fame!,, 11 January 2015.
  15. "A Cry in the Dark (1988) – Release dates". Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  16. Pam Brown. The West. "A glorious romp through history", 5 February 2008. Archived 12 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. Adam Dawtrey (11 April 2012). "Aneurin Barnard tapped for 'Mariah Mundi'". Variety article. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  18. Catherall, Sarah (28 March 2018). "Lisa Harrow reflects on the pivotal moments in her colourful career". The New Zealand Listener.
  19. "Sam Neill's Love Triangle". Woman's Day. 16 October 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  20. "Actor Sam Neill on family, friends, film and his other passion: winemaking". Australian Financial Review. 5 April 2018.
  21. Robin, Myriam (4 February 2018). "Actor Sam Neill and AFR political editor Laura Tingle start dating". The Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  22. " | Subscribe to The Daily Telegraph for exclusive stories".
  23. Moore, Hannah (2 May 2018). "Hollywood star Sam Neill, 70, finds love with political journalist Laura Tingle, 56 - after the pair started flirting on Twitter". Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 24 August 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2019 via MSN UK.
  24. "Sam Neill's Twitter romance gets 'serious'". Spy website, The New Zealand Herald. Auckland. 6 February 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  25. "Sam Neill – Family & Companions". 10 January 1991. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  26. Wilson, Fiona (11 October 2014). "What I've learnt: Sam Neill". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  27. Scott, Cathy. "Two Paddocks: Our Story".
  28. "Let's take a moment to appreciate Sam Neill's beautiful, perfect, pig-filled Twitter account".
  29. "Meet Taika, the latest Sam Neill's farm animal with a famous name". Stuff. 4 May 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  30. "Sam Neil's Oamaru Speech | Scoop News".
  31. "No. 52564". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1991. p. 30.
  32. "Sir 'just far too grand' for Neill". Otago Daily Times. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
  33. "Honorary Graduates" (PDF). University of Canterbury. 2014. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2015.
  34. Plante, Corey (2 November 2018). "'Rick and Morty' Season 4's First Guest Star Is Almost Too Perfect". Inverse. Retrieved 10 August 2019.

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