5 Things I Learnt at the Sam Neill panel at the Sydney Writers' Festival

by Anandi Ganguly

It’s not every day that you get a chance to meet your childhood idol and hear him talk about his life, achievements, fears, and bare his soul. I was fortunate enough to experience this at the Sydney Writers’ Festival with Sam Neill. Unravelling stories from his memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This?: A Memoir, which features a wild and witty account of a career in film and TV spanning half a century. From his early days in amateur Shakespeare productions in New Zealand to leading roles in movies such as My Brilliant Career, Jurassic Park and The Piano, Sam brings insight and humour to his trials and triumphs, on and off the screen. He is joined in conversation by fellow actor and author, Bryan Brown.

Here are 5 things I learnt at the event:

1.  On his family

Sam talks about his early days as a child in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland with his father serving in the army. He got candid about how close and tightly knit his family was despite rarely being physically affectionate. He got emotional while recounting his father’s last moments while reading a passage from his book and reminisced about many of his fond memories of him.

2.  His close bond with Bryan Brown

What is better than watching a live interview of a legendary actor? Watching him get interviewed by another legendary actor!

I was unaware of the close friendship the two of them shared, which in retrospect seemed obvious seeing the size of their shared filmography through the years. Bryan was absolutely relentless in his jokes aimed at Sam, and their natural chemistry was undeniably evident. The hilarious stories of them as young actors coupled with more serious ones such as Bryan recounting the first time Sam confided in him about his cancer diagnosis, really cemented the unwavering bond between them. I think it was a brilliant decision to have Sam be interviewed by someone so close to him.

3.  Sam Neill and Women

His popularity with women is no surprise and on being asked about his experience of working with some of the finest actresses of his generation, Sam commented “It’s a very long list and it has been a privilege to work with all of them. I actually think women are better actors, actually, women are better at most things.” This was met with a witty comeback by Bryan who exclaimed “You know that this audience will be 95% women” to which Neill replied, “Women have good taste!”


4.  Rushing his memoir

He opened up about wanting to finish writing the book as soon as possible because he didn’t know how long he had to live following his stage three cancer diagnosis. He revealed that it added a layer of spontaneity to the memoir which it wouldn’t have had otherwise. He disclosed that he was never particularly interested in writing a book, but while undergoing chemotherapy he resorted to jotting down his memories as a way to cope.

5.  And lastly, his favourite Dinosaur

In response to an adorable question, he said that his favourite one without a doubt, is the Tyrannosaurus rex! Alan Grant never disappoints!


He taught us how to do an Irish accent which he himself learnt while shooting for Peaky Blinders.

Blitz Editor

Anandi Ganguly

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