26 September 2023

Did I Ever Tell You This?

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Sam Neill, Text Publishing, $49.99.

Being on a film set waiting for your turn to face the cameras, it’s expected one would sit in caravans for a good while. Such was the case for Award-winning actor Sam Neill.

When someone said, “We need you on set”, he emerged, spending a few minutes “doing what it is you do. Act. Once in a while, with luck, you might even act well.”

“And, just possibly, you might even go further, walk a few more metres, and actually live some life. That life, as well as that acting, is what this book is about.”

This is Sam’s rewarding memoir, one in which he counts himself being far luckier than he deserved. By his own account, his career has been a series of unpredictable turns of fortune.

Born in 1947 in Northern Ireland, his family emigrated to New Zealand when he was aged seven. After university he made documentary films while also appearing in occasional amateur productions of Shakespeare. He took a lead in Sleeping Dogs in 1977, a project that led to a major role in Gillian Armstrong’s celebrated My Brilliant Career.

Sam has appeared in almost 100 feature films and dozens of television series in a career spanning 50 years. In this unanticipated memoir, written in a creative burst of a few months in 2022, Sam tells the story of how he became one of the world’s most celebrated actors, who worked with everyone from Meryl Streep to Isabel Adjani, from Jeff Goldblum to Sean Connery, from Steven Spielberg to Jane Campion. He was in the Jurassic Park movies, The Piano and Peaky Blinders.

Earlier this year, Sam revealed he had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer which is now in remission.

A wonderful observer of other people, Sam has written Did I Ever Tell You This? with love and warmth about his family.

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