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Sam Neill reveals why one of his best movies made him “lonely”

In 1993, Sam Neill famously starred in Jurassic Park, but he also had a supporting role in the Oscar-winning film The Piano, which was an 'uncomfortable' shoot.

Sam Neill

Kiwi actor Sam Neill has over 150 IMDb credits to his name, including 80 movies. One of his earliest movie roles was in Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career (1979). He is also known for the horror movie Possession (1981), thriller movie Dead Calm (1989), and science fiction movie Event Horizon (1997). He is of course best known for being part of the Jurassic Park cast.

Steven Spielberg famously made war movie Schindler’s List in the same year (and practically at the same time) as Jurassic Park. And Sam Neill starred in one of his most critically-acclaimed movies in the same year as well – there was clearly something in the water in 1993. Neill played Alisdair Stewart in Jane Campion’s The Piano, the man who Holly Hunter’s Ada is forced to marry.

In his upcoming memoir (via IndieWire), Neill reflects on making The Piano. “An Angel at My Table (1990) was without question for me the most important film made to that point in New Zealand. Of course, I would work with Jane at the drop of a hat.”

“It was an uncommonly lonely job for me. Holly and I got along fine. But she was of necessity remote. I understand it,” Neill explains. “She commits to a role, and any joking around, the everyday currency I’m used to, would’ve been a distraction for her. Playing our scenes together was disturbing for me. I never knew whether it was Holly looking at Sam, or Ada looking at Stewart. The lines between life and fiction were blurred and it was not in any way comfortable.”

“The famous scene where I drag her out into the mud and sever one of her piano-playing fingers was a big ask. Holly is small, but she is very strong. I realized on the first take that the struggle to get her out there would have to be actual. She wasn’t going without a fight…By take three I was absolutely exhausted, and thankfully Jane had what she needed and I didn’t have to go through the whole business of fighting Holly out into the mud and the rain machine once more, my friends.”

“But it was a curiously solitary acting experience for me. Happily, Jane is a very caring director for her cast, and was always there to hug me when I was at my lowest.” The Piano won three Oscars at the 1994 ceremony, which is the same one where Schindler’s List won Best Picture.

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