You may have seen him as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, or as Alisdair Stewart in The Piano, or as Merlin in the miniseries of the same name. Considered to be an “international leading man, Sam Neill is one of the most versatile and respected actors of his generation. But behind his impressive career and charming personality lies a personal struggle that few people know about – he is battling stage 3 cancer.
In this video, we will reveal how Sam Neill discovered his diagnosis, what treatments he has undergone, and how he has coped with this life-changing challenge. We will also share some little-known facts about his life and career that will likely stun and amaze you.
FactsVerse Presents: He Starred in Jurassic Park, Now He’s Battling Stage 3 Cancer
Sam Neill: A Living Legend
Sam Neill was born on the 14th of September, 1947, in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. His father was an army officer who served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and his mother was an English-born nurse. Neil’s father’s family had roots in New Zealand, where his great-grandfather had settled as a wine merchant in Dunedin.
When Sam was seven years old, his family relocated to Christchurch, New Zealand, where he attended a strict Anglican boys’ boarding school called Christ’s College.
Sam Neill At the University of Canterbury
Neil developed an interest in literature and drama at school, and went on to study English lit at the University of Canterbury. He also joined a theatre group called The Group Theatre and acted in several plays. He then moved to Wellington and enrolled at Victoria University of Wellington, where he continued his involvement in theatre and honed his craft. Around this time, he also worked as a film director, editor, and scriptwriter for the New Zealand National Film Unit for six years.
Neil made his film debut in 1975 with a small role in Ashes, but his breakthrough came two years later with Sleeping Dogs, a critically acclaimed thriller based on C.K. Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream. The film was the first New Zealand feature film to be screened outside the country, and it helped launch Neill’s international career. He followed that role up with another critically acclaimed performance as Harry Beecham in My Brilliant Career, a romantic drama set in Australia.
Omen III: The Final Conflict and Possession
In 1981, Neil moved to London and appeared in two films that frimly established him as a versatile actor, Omen III: The Final Conflict and Possession. He also starred as Sidney Reilly, in the TV series Reilly: Ace of Spies. The critics responded positively to that offering and he ended up receiving a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA award for his portrayal.
Neil, riding on the high of that award-winning success, continued to work steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in films such as A Cry in the Dark, Dead Calm, The Piano, and In the Mouth of Madness.
Dr. Alan Grant: Sam Neill Jurassic Park
Neil finally achieved worldwide fame in 1993 when he starred as Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist who visits Jurassic Park, an island theme park populated by cloned dinosaurs created by John Hammond (portrayed by the late-great Richard Attenborough). The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Neill went on to reprise his role as Dr. Grant in 2001s Jurassic Park III and 2022s Jurassic World Dominion.
Besides Jurassic Park, Neill has appeared in numerous other films and TV shows over the years. Some of his notable roles include 1998s Merlin, where he played the mythical title character, 2007s The Tudors, where he played Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and the 2008 series Crusoe, where he played Jeremiah Blackthorn. Additionally he has had roles in offerings such as Alcatraz, Peaky Blinders, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Invasion, and most recently, Assassin Club, which is slated to release later this year.
Chemo For Life
Sam Neill was enjoying a successful career as one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors when he received a shocking diagnosis of stage three blood cancer. Neil discovered he had angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, a rare and very aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that primarily affects the immune system, in March 2020 while promoting Jurassic World Dominion in Los Angeles. After noticing he had swollen glands in his neck, he decided to see a doctor.
After consulting with his physician, he was told he had cancer and that he needed to start chemotherapy as soon as possible if he wanted to have a chance of saving his life. Prioritizing his health, he immediately flew back to New Zealand, where he lives with his beloved wife Noriko Watanabe and their daughter Elena, and began treatment. He kept his condition private until March 2023, when he announced it on social media, thanking his doctors, family, friends, and fans for their continued support. That’s also when he published a memoir that we’ll be discussing in just a moment – so be sure to stick around.
Courage and Optimism
Neil has said that he is not afraid of dying but that it would simply annoy him if his time on earth was cut short because he wanted to live long enough to see his grandchildren grow up and enjoy his vineyard. He also said he wanted to continue working as an actor as long as possible because he loved it.
Neil’s fans and colleagues were shocked and saddened by the news of his cancer but also inspired by his courage and optimism. Many celebrities sent him messages of love and encouragement on social media, including Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep.
Neil first underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, but they, unfortunately, did not work. He tries a new and very expensive chemo drug that targets the cancer cells more effectively. He signed a contract with the drug manufacturer that guaranteed him free access to the drug if he survived four months after starting it. Fortunately for both his health’s sake and his pocketbook, the drug worked and he went into remission in July 2021.
Healed From Cancer
Neil has revealed that there was no cancer remaining in his body but that he was not off the hook yet. He will have to take the chemo drug monthly for the rest of his life to prevent relapse. While probably the least of his worries, Neil also lost his hair due to chemotherapy, but he remains hopeful that it will grow back soon.
Despite his diagnosis, Sam Neill has not quit acting or given up on his passion. After finding out that he had cancer, he continued working on several projects both during and after his treatment, including Jurassic World Dominion, Assassin Club, Scarygirl, Thor: Love and Thunder, and the upcoming film Bring Him to Me.
Sam Neill’s 2023 memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This?, is a candid, heartwarming, and often humorous account of his life and career, as well as his battle with blood cancer. He wrote the book during his treatment as a way of distracting himself and giving him a reason to get through the day.
In his memoir, Neil wrote about his childhood in Northern Ireland and New Zealand, his early struggles to become an actor in a country with no film industry, his breakthrough roles in movies like Sleeping Dogs, My Brilliant Career, and Jurassic Park, and his work with directors like Gillian Armstrong, Steven Spielberg, and Jane Campion. He also shared stories about his co-stars like Meryl Streep, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern, as well as his family and friends.
In the memoir, he also opened up for the first time about his cancer diagnosis. He wrote candidly about how he coped with the troubling news, how he found support from his loved ones and fans, and how he remains optimistic and philosophical about his condition. The book further serves as a testament to his passion for wine-making, as he’s the proud owner of a vineyard called Two Paddocks located in Central Otago.
Failed Bond Screen Test
Did you know that Sam Neill once had a chance to be James Bond? Yes, the same Sam Neill who fought dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, made wine in Central Otago, and has been battling stage three blood cancer. In 1986, Neil auditioned for the role of 007 in The Living Daylights, but he didn’t get it -and as it turns out, he’s glad he didn’t.
In his new memoir Did I Ever Tell You This?, Neil revealed that he was “bullied” into doing the screen test by his agent and that it was “one of the worst experiences” of his life. He said that he felt “so awkward” all day and that he really wanted his friend Pierce Brosnan to get the part instead. He also admitted that he was afraid of being “the Bond that no one likes” and that playing Bond would have been “a fate worse than death”.
Australian TV Show Surprise
If you’re curious you can watch a snippet of his screen test on YouTube. Just make sure you save that for after you finish watching this one. In the clip, you’ll see a young Sam Neill with his shirt open and a pistol in hand, trying to seduce a woman in bed with his best Bond impression. It’s hilarious and cringeworthy at the same time.
Sam Neill himself was mortified when an Australian TV show surprised him with the footage during a live interview. After being confronted with the dusty old footage, he buried his head in his hands and called it “so cruel” to play it on air. He also joked that he would sue them for defamation.
So, yeah. That’s how Sam Neill almost became James Bond but dodged a bullet instead. Maybe it was for the best, because we got to see him shine in many other roles over the years. And who knows, maybe he’ll get another chance to play a spy someday. After all, he’s not afraid of anything – not even cancer.
So, that’s about all we have for you for now. But before you move on to watching another one of our facts-packed videos, we’d love to hear from you. Did you know that Sam Neil has stage three cancer and that he’ll have to remain on chemo for the remainder of his life? Let us know in the comments. Also, feel free to share your favorite films that Neil has been in.