The lack of information available on this actor came as a surprise, since he has appeared in some 40-odd films, mini-series, and television productions. In addition to this massive background of work, he has acquired a very loyal following, including an official fan club with its headquarters in Australia. Nonetheless, he remains relatively unknown. Considering this, there was the thought that perhaps a researcher should look at the fans before looking at the actor, to get a feel for who this man is, and the most logical place to begin looking is with the president of his fan club, Chriss Green.
Over his career, which spans nearly twenty years, Sam Neill has amassed a very loyal following, with Chriss being a prime example. Chriss began seriously following Sam's career after seeing the 1979 production of My Brilliant Career. She began combing through magazines, newspapers and other periodicals, searching for more information on Sam. Chriss watched each of the films following My Brilliant Career attentively, and afterwards she was always ready with constructive criticism and advice, which she said probably 'lined many a dustbin.' But ever tenacious, she never slackened in her efforts to search out more information on Sam and his current works. However, as she says, 'I was constantly frustrated by the lack of information available regarding what film Sam was working on and what was due for release in the cinema.' It took eight years after My Brilliant Career before Chriss began searching in earnest for a fan club. 'I knew that an actor as talented and magical as Sam would have to have one. A fan club would be able to give me the information I so desperately wanted. I would no longer be alone in my admiration.' There was to be no joyous ending to her search; there was no such thing as a Sam Neill Fan Club. However, she did discover a fellow Sam Neill fan who happened to live in the United States, Jada C. Watkins, and began corresponding with her. At Jada's suggestion, they concocted the idea of forming a fan club themselves.
Again, it was not easy and took many years, part of the reason being that Sam did not believe that he had enough of a following for a fan club to be necessary. But Chriss persisted, tenaciously researching information about fan clubs, learning the laws that pertain to them, discovering what is expected of a fan club, and joining several to get the feel of what a fan club is all about. Finally in June of 1992, the Club was given the go-ahead and sanctioned by Sam. After Sam agreed to the idea of the fan club, he commented that Chriss would probably not be able to obtain many members and would therefore not have very much work to do. She was able to prove Sam's initial impression of the club's possible popularity wrong by building up a sizeable membership and, even more importantly, a membership made up of loyal, caring and unique individuals.
Uniqueness appears to be the key word in regard to Sam Neill and his fans. The diverseness of his fans compares with the diversity of Sam's characters. His fans are world-wide, of ages ranging from five years old to those in their late sixties. Their life-styles are as different as the characters that Sam portrays on film. His fans have professions such as lawyers, computer programmers, artists, Park Rangers, and Emergency Medical Technicians; meanwhile, Sam has played characters such as a spy, a lawyer, a klutzy chef, a doctor, and a world-renowned paleontologist.
The fans look upon Sam not as a star, but as someone to be admired, someone who could perhaps be a favoured uncle or teacher. Hence, I have chosen to refer to the actor as "Sam" in this biography rather in the traditional manner of "Mr. Neill" or "Nigel Neill", both of which sound far too pretentious for the actor that I have come to know. Many of Sam's admirers go even so far as to detest the label of "fan club" since they do not see themselves as fans. Sam has commented that the modesty of the fan club pleases him. He appreciates the fact that the newsletter can be used as a medium through which he can maintain a dialogue with his fans, either venting his anger at the state of the environment or making a witty, philosophical comment on the absurdity of life. Sam wishes his 'modest' fan club to remain as it is, a place where he can learn about the people in the club as well as the people learning about him.
The club itself is as different from the run-of-the-mill fan club as its members are from one another. The club focuses on the members as much as it does on the actor. Many club members have chosen to write to one another, resulting in new friendships being forged, as well as taking advantage of the unique situation of being able to contact others in many different countries. One trait that nearly all club members seem to share is an interest in other cultures, histories and societies. Sam shares this interest, as can be seen in his choosing to work on projects that deal with history, literature, and current events--projects that take him on an endless trek of globe-trotting; in one four month period he worked on films in India, England, and Indonesia, and he has changed his accent to portray characters with such dissimilar nationalities as Russian, Australian, and American.
Note: Since this biography has been 'completed' a very professional, authorised website has come into being. You can access it via: http://metalab.unc.edu/samneill/
Although his fans obviously are well-educated and intelligent, concerned about various causes such as the environment, education, and civil rights, the fact is that his female fans can also appreciate his handsome appearance. The husbands and significant others of these fans tend to disagree with this judgement, prompting a few fans to write in and describe what their significant others use as retaliation towards this appreciation for Sam's good looks. One husband suggested playing the video game Jurassic Park, putting Dr. Grant into as much danger as possible, while another husband suggested freeze-framing Sam's death scenes in various films. A friend of Sam's even went so far as to assure me that Sam's father was infinitely more good-looking than Sam. Sam took this teasing in his usual good manner, saying that the husbands' behaviour was commendable, and was willing to go even so far as to recommend other death scenes to freeze-frame for the disgruntled anti-fan.
Of course, none of this could put off the true fan who is convinced of Sam's handsomeness. At 5'11" and 157 pounds with olive skin, blue eyes and chestnut-brown hair Sam has been described as 'a heart-throb' or a 'sex-symbol'. One 12-year-old fan commented that 'even though he's like 44 and I'm 12, he's still very cute!' The older members of the fan club tend to go into more detail when describing what they consider to be Sam's best features, from his 'crystalline blue eyes' to his 'bewitching, mischievous, devil-may-care grin'.
Sam responds to all of this attention to his physical features with a shrug and a unbelieving look in his eyes. This characteristic humbleness is expected from Sam, and his fans allow him the indulgence of being a gentleman. The very fact that Sam disregards his status as a heart-throb makes him even more appealing in the eyes of the fans. They consider his behaviour to be a breath of fresh air, when compared to other stars that are considered sex symbols and who act the part.
But surely the members of Sam's fan club are not so shallow as to be attracted to Sam simply because of his distinguished good looks? This is evidently true, since the feature that is most often mentioned by Sam's fans as being the reason they were first attracted to him is his distinctive voice; almost without fail, his fans say that the reason they became 'hooked' on Sam was because of his unique accent and voice. Many professional critics have compared Sam with James Mason, another actor whose wonderful voice is his calling card. Sam's voice has been described as being 'silky smooth,' 'cultured,' 'warm and enveloping, like a downy comforter'. Many fans have written to say that the first, and only, episode of the American animated series The Simpsons that they have watched was the one in which Sam had a guest-starring role as a cat burglar, and that after seeing it the first time they had gone on to watch it several more times on video. Other fans have claimed that 'if Sam were to be the reader for more audio-books, I would definitely become a better-read person'. It appears as if none of the fan club members are immune to the hypnotic effects of Sam's voice.
When his fans were asked to describe Sam in one word, the one most often stated was 'charming'. Even in the above-mentioned Simpsons episode, the town declared the cat burglar (Sam) to be 'charming' and therefore undeserving of arrest. It is undeniable that Sam's personality is infinitely attractive, and is quite often the reason that so many of his fans have become members of his club. Most of the members have stated that 'never before had I even entertained the thought of becoming a member of any fan club, but there is just something different about Sam.' When investigated, this 'something' was found to be his unassuming personality. 'Kind,' 'gentle,' 'good-natured' are all words that fit Sam completely, perhaps not always Sam in the roles that he plays for the camera, but Sam in his everyday role as a human being. It is tempting to complain that all of those descriptive words are saccharin, and the sensitive 80's guy is dead. Not according to the fans! The very fact that they are so enamoured of Sam suggests that the world needs more of the strong, sensitive type.
Loyal, sensitive, devoted, intelligent with a good sense of humour. Dashing, suave, sophisticated, cosmopolitan. Enjoys music, reading, and horseback riding. Tall, dark and handsome. A bit of a rogue. It almost sounds as if someone is describing a medieval knight in shining armour, and they could very well be-- after all, Sam did portray Sir Brian de Bois Guilbert in Ivanhoe! No wonder his fans are so devoted!
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