Movie legend Sam Neill has shared a devastating update on his battle with a rare form of blood cancer - but the busy South Island actor, author, vineyard owner and doting grandfather says he’s not letting the fear of death take over his life.
Earlier this year, Neill, 76, revealed that what he originally thought was a round of Covid turned out to be non-Hodgkin angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, diagnosed early last year.
In a new interview with Australian Story the Jurassic Park star has shared his stance on having cancer and the gruelling impact of his treatment which meant as much as he wanted to he wasn’t well enough to work on his Central Otago vineyard, Two Paddocks.
“I know I’ve got it, but I’m not really interested in it,” he said of his diagnosis.
“It’s out of my control. If you can’t control it, don’t get into it.”
But Neill says the drug - administered in the form of fortnightly infusions which leave him feeling like he’s been in a boxing ring - will eventually cease to work.
“I’m prepared for that,” Northern Ireland born Neill told Australian Story, adding that while he’s not “remotely afraid” of dying, it would be “annoying” because he’s still got things he wants to do. It’s the idea of retiring that’s more terrifying for the busy septuagenarian.
He is currently filming an adaptation of writer Liane Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall, he’s also set to appear in Australian mini-series The Twelve.
And he’s working on a book he sees as a memoir of sorts for his four children and eight grandchildren.
“I started to look at my life and realise how immensely grateful I am for so much of it,” Neill said.
“I started to think I better write some of this down because I’m not sure how long I have to live. I was running against the clock.
“I can’t tell you how privileged I am to spend that amount of time with so many actors, so many of whom I’ve really enjoyed and so many of whom I’ve really admired,” he told Australian Story.
Stars Neill has worked with include Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Meryl Streep in Evil Angels, Nicole Kidman in Dead Calm and Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October. Other notable films include The Piano and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, Neill said one of his concerns is that news of his cancer battle becomes more prominent than his book.
“The last thing I want is for people to obsess about the cancer thing because I’m not really interested in cancer. I’m not really interested in anything other than living.”
Neill told Australian Story while he’s always been big on the idea of living in the moment, cancer has amplified the importance of it and making the most of his time.
He shares that when the beat-up from a round of his treatment has subsided, he looks forward to “Ten days ... in which I could not feel more alive or pleased to be breathing and looking at a blue sky”.