Famous Birthdays: Sam Neill
September 14, 1947 - currently 71 years old.
"I can tell you where I was when Kennedy was shot - which was in the common room at school. I heard about it on the old valve radio. At the time of Armstrong's landing, I was at university rehearsing a play.”
1947: Nigel John Dermot Neill DCNZM OBE was born on September 14 and known professionally as Sam Neill. He is a New Zealand actor, director and vineyard proprietor. He was born in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, to Priscilla Beatrice and Dermot Neill.
His father, an army officer, was a third-generation New Zealander, while his mother was born in England. 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. (later part of the listed hospitality group Wilson Neill, the largest liquor retailers in New Zealand at the time. Neill holds British citizenship through his place of birth, but identifies primarily as a New Zealander.
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.
1977: After working at the New Zealand National Film Unit as a director, Neill was cast for the lead role in the New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs.
1979: Following this, he appeared in Australian romance My Brilliant Career, opposite Judy Davis.
1980: Neill was in a relationship with Lisa Harrow until 1989. They have a son, Tim, born in 1983.
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 the cult film, Possession.
1983: 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.
1987: An early American starring role was in Amerika, playing a senior KGB officer leading the occupation and division of a defeated United States.
1988: Among his many Australian roles is playing Michael Chamberlain in Evil Angels (released as A Cry in the Dark outside of Australia and New Zealand), a film about the case of Azaria Chamberlain.
1989: One of his leading and co-starring roles is in the thriller Dead Calm. Neill married make-up artist Noriko Watanabe during this year and they have one daughter, Elena, born in 1991. He is also stepfather to Maiko Spencer, a daughter from Watanabe's first marriage. Neill separated from Watanabe in 2017, and early this year was dating Australian political journalist, Laura Tingle.
1990: He then starred in The Hunt for Red October and Death in Brunswick.
1991: He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work as an actor.
1993: Neill acted in the New Zealand film, The Piano. He then starred in a run of films in 1994, including Jurassic Park, Sirens and The Jungle Book.
1995: He starred in John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness. He also returned to directing with the documentary Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill, which he wrote and directed with Judy Rymer.
1997: He starred in Event Horizon, a science fiction horror film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and written by Philip Eisner. It stars Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson.
1998: He portrayed the eponymous wizard in Merlin, a miniseries based on the legends of King Arthur and he reprised his role in the sequel, Merlin's Apprentice in 2006.
1999: He starred in Bicentennial Man, a Canadian-American science fiction comedy-drama film starring Robin Williams, Embeth Davidtz (in a dual role), Wendy Crewson, and Oliver Platt. Based on the novel The Positronic Man.
2000: He starred in the comedy The Dish and he provided the voice of Sam Sawnoff in The Magic Pudding.
2002: He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Canterbury.
2003: He starred in Perfect Strangers.
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.”
2009: He starred in Under the Mountain with Oliver Driver, Sophie McBride, and Tom Cameron. It is based on the 1979 novel of the same name by New Zealand author Maurice Gee.
2014: In his early 20s Neill fathered a son, Andrew, who was adopted by someone else. During this year, Neill said the two "went looking for [one another]” and that their reunion was "much more grown-up” than expected.
2015: 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. That year he also starred in BBC TV miniseries And Then There Were None, based on Agatha Christie's thriller, he played the role of General MacArthur.
2016: He starred in the New Zealand-made film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi, as well as the ITV miniseries Tutankhamun.
2017: Neill appeared in a comedic scene in the fantasy sequel Thor: Ragnarok, in which he portrays an actor playing Odin (as depicted by Sir Anthony Hopkins) alongside Luke Hemsworth and Matt Damon playing Thor and Loki respectively.
2018: He portrayed Mr. McGregor and also the voice of Tommy Brock in Peter Rabbit and Captain David Hawthorne in The Commuter. The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook airs 7.30pm Monday on the History Channel, Foxtel.
Neill currently 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. He also has homes in Wellington, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia.
- He first started to call himself "Sam” at school because there were several other students named Nigel.
- Neill was one of the leading candidates to succeed Roger Moore in the role of James Bond, but lost out to Timothy Dalton.
- He 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”.
- He is a supporter of the Australian Speak Easy Association and the British Stammering Association (BSA).