Nigel John Dermot "Sam" Neill Template:Post-nominals (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, Peaky Blinders 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.
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