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Sam Neill Foxtel magazine

Screen legends Sam Neill and Michael Caton reunite as warring brothers in a reimagining of endearing comedy Rams in Australia’s robust but relatively small film industry, it’s hard to believe that renowned actors Sam Neill and Michael Caton haven’t worked together since 1980, when Neill had a guest spot in Caton’s WWII-set series The Sullivans. In the decades since, their careers have taken different yet equally stellar trajectories – Neill known for his international roles, including Dr Alan Grant in the blockbuster Jurassic Park franchise, while Caton became synonymous with playing affable patriarchs in cult classic The Castle and popular TV series Packed to the Rafters.

Rams reunites the icons in an adaptation of the award winning Icelandic film of the same name as Colin (Neill) and Les (Caton) Grimurson, estranged brothers facing a pandemic that threatens their community and the family’s sheep-farming legacy. RAMS Saturday July 31 at 8.30pm and watch On Demand Foxtel Movies Premiere [401]

What is Rams about at its heart?

Michael Caton: I’d say miscommunication. Both brothers are hopeless at communicating their feelings. Les just stews, unless he gets on the sauce – and then God help you! And look at Col – he has so much trouble saying what’s on his mind.

Sam Neill: It’s about sibling rivalry and communities under pressure, the nature of friendship and pandemics. It touches on a lot of things that are universal.

What attracted you to the Rams story?

Neill: I was sent a script and I immediately said no, because I’d seen the original, which is a film I liked very much. I didn’t see any point in it being remade. But Jeremy [Sims], the director, said, ‘Please read the script.’ He talked me into it, basically, in the full understanding that we weren’t really doing a remake. It was a springboard – a very different film in a very different country.

Caton: Originally, I was going to play the role of Colin. Then we had a meeting with Jeremy and they’d rewritten the script, so instead of playing the nice brother, I ended up playing the tortured brother and it was a real change of pace for me. I usually play sympathetic characters; it was a challenge to play someone edgier and wild and out of control.

Did you identify with any aspect of your characters?

Caton: I refuse to answer on the grounds that I could incriminate myself! [Laughs] He is a tortured soul. There’s a whole backstory for Les; the way he [didn’t inherit] the family farm and came back from serving in Vietnam, and how he is affected by all of that.

Neill: Colin is a stillwaters-run-deep kind of bloke. Not that I particularly identify with that, but I sort of understand it. I’ve spent a lot of time on farms and there is a thing about people on the land, people like

Colin: they don’t say much, but they like to lean on gates and stare into the distance quite a bit. [Laughs] So I know a lot of Colins and there might even be a bit of Colin in me. When disaster strikes, Les is openly defiant and Colin is a quiet rebel.

Would you behave the same way in your character’s situation?

Caton: I’d be the quiet one. Anything to avoid a blow-up. Neill: Colin is a quiet rebel, but I doubt if that’s me. I tend to be someone who is more inclined to toe the line. I’m a law abider. It’s unbelievable that the pair of you haven’t worked together since The Sullivans. What was it like to reunite 40 years on?

Neill: When I first knew Michael, he was a regular on The Sullivans and I had a guest spot. He was a roaring boy at that point – he’s a much quieter bloke now – but I’ve always been fond of him. He was kind to me when I was a Kiwi who had just crossed the Ditch, wet behind the ears. I’ve always been grateful for that.

Caton: I’ve always really liked Sam. He has a beautiful manner about him. He moves through the world very gracefully. I wish I had that gift. It was a hell of a shoot, though. In one scene, I’m on a quad bike and there are wind and smoke machines, I can’t see a thing in front of me, and Jeremy wants the quad bike and sheep in the same shot. So I’m right up on the sheep and Sam’s behind me shouting, ‘Dog! Dog!’ because the dog took no notice of the quad bike. I had to brake savagely a couple of times to avoid running over this dog, so we had a great partnership in that regard. [Laughs]

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