10 QUESTIONS: SAM NEILL, ACTOR
So you're a cop in Peaky Blinders and a former cop in Old School. Are you hitting the straight and narrow as you mature?
I've always been absurdly straight and narrow. My friend, the late great, and very gay John Hargreaves used to make a point of kissing me in public just to see me squirm. But I take your point - I seem to get cast often as people in charge of things -- ridiculous when you consider I wouldn't even put myself in charge of the washing up. I note however that Bryan [Brown], usually the dodgy larrikin, seems to be going straight - lately a God of some kind, and now as a Brigadier at Gallipoli. Now that's weird.
You're very good as Police Chief C.I. Campbell. You have become a fan of Campbell. Why?
I wouldn't say a fan exactly. Campbell is a beast of a man -- sectarian, sadistic, narrow minded and brutal. But also sad, lonely and delusional. So, not my kind of geezer at all. But from an actor's point of view -- absolute bliss. I loved playing him, and relished every day on the set, every line. And he has great dialogue -- witness his speech to the cowed Birmingham police force in the first episode. And let's not forget he is on the right side of the law. More or less. I think you should have some sort of love for everyone you play. If you hate them, you are somehow commenting on them, rather than just being them. But at the end, I move on. I leave them behind. Been good to know you.
Do you subscribe to the theory TV has supplanted film as the best forum for adult drama?
Well, how many more Superhero, Transformer type films can you take? Thank God for HBO, BBC, Netflix, Showtime and of course the ABC - I loved doing Old School, but perhaps there will be no more of that sort of malarkey with Government cuts as they are. Just even more mind-numbing talent quests... more bloody cooking and singing. Oh Lord.
You've just completed a NZ TV series, Australian film (Backtrack) and British TV. Is constant travelling a joy or trial of an actor's life?
Coming as I do from the most isolated and remote corner of the world, I am hopelessly addicted to travel. But I only travel for work. My idea of the perfect holiday is to go home to my vineyards. At the moment I am filming in Romania. An utterly fascinating and beautiful country. I'm lucky.
You won an AFI award for playing Michael Chamberlain in Evil Angels yet Meryl Streep copped it. Would whomever played Lindy have got the same reaction?
I wouldn't say Meryl copped it -- she got an AFI award as well, AND she got an Oscar nomination for her role. There were some unkind mutterings about her voice in the press here; the fact is she was dead on. Lindy herself has this strange hybrid NZ/Australian voice, very nasal, and Meryl had it down. She was brave.
Your Christian name is actually Nigel. Is anyone allowed to use it?
If you mention that name again, I will call security. But, on that subject, much as I despise UKIP as a party, I am fairly relaxed about Nigel Farage. There is only so far a Nigel can go.
You stuttered as a child. Was performance a way to counter it?
Maybe. Most stutterers can be cured by a good speech therapist. I'd never heard of one of those as a mortified, blushing and basically silent child. But it started to go away about the time I began to act at school. Maybe confidence as a result, learning to breathe... not sure.
You haven't been shy with your political thoughts over the years. What's on your mind at the moment?
Don't get me started. Well for one thing, I am completely baffled as to why successive governments in Australia insist on treating a few boat people with such evident cruelty. Have they no idea how barbaric they make Australia look in the eyes of the world? All that expense and trouble just to look bad. Completely laughable, if it wasn't so sad. On a brighter note, the only other subject in which Australia has featured overseas for months was an excellent shot of Abbott and Abe seemingly demonstrating that both Aussy and Japanese pants just will not split, even under the worst conditions. Hurrah!
Give us one good reason why Australians should drink a New Zealand pinot noir before an Australian pinot?
I drink plenty of both, so I see no reason why you shouldn't. We are a generous people - we like to share. Cheers.
Of all your lines and all your characters fans refer to or want repeated, I'm guessing the "eat red meat dance" is the most popular?
Oh dear, is it as bad as that? What an enduring legacy then, after all that work. I have to say though that Marina, the Orang Utan, was a most obliging and charming co star. I loved her. How often do you get to work with someone who enjoys mutual grooming?
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