When I received word that Sam Neill had agreed to my writing this biography, my first reaction was astonishment. Then, after a few moments reflection, I began to wonder about the man's sanity -- after all, I am by no means an author, or even a decent-grade writer for that matter. Words of Samuel Johnson suddenly came to mind: 'biography has often been allotted to writers who seem very little acquainted with the nature of their task, or very negligent about the performance'. After much soul-searching, however, I came to realise that if he had the confidence that I could do the job, then I would trust in his judgement.
The project itself took over a year to become a reality. I had been corresponding with Chriss Green, the president of Sam's Australian fan club, for some time when the topic of the media's lack of interest in Sam Neill arose. At that time, I did not know anything about the actor other than that he played the character of Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. Once I began searching for information on Sam, however, I quickly learnt how frustrating the situation must be for any fan attempting to gain such information. A scenario played itself in my mind:
Shoulders drooping, eyes firmly fixed upon the ground ahead of her, she combed the city from one end to the next. Her quest was a simple one, or so she had thought in the beginning. Now, dripping with sweat after spending hours in the hot summer sun, she felt that perhaps it was a futile quest...a quixotic adventure. She had rummaged through every video store that had an advertisement in the local phone book, and several that she had simply come across while looking for another store, searching for videos starring this certain actor. But all she could garner in her explorations was a single, cutting remark: "Who the hell is Sam Neill?"
Over the next few months, Chriss and I traded ideas back and forth, and the thought developed that a biography on Sam would be a wonderful item for the fan club to have available. The next problem confronting us was the co-operation of the actor himself: evidently the only truly reliable source of information on Sam Neill was Sam Neill. If nothing else, this biography was to prove a significant challenge for a writer-wannabe.
Sam refused to co-operate (without even realising that he was refusing to co-operate), traipsing from country to country, filming film after film, making it impossible for Chriss to catch up with him and hand over my feeble rough draft for his approval.
Finally, one year, four films, and seven countries later, Sam returned home to Australia. He acquiesced to Chriss' request that he read the rough draft and decide whether or not to allow us to do the biography.
Amazingly, he said yes, even without our begging or pleading. And, throughout the course of the writing, he has been more than generous with his time. He has continuously surprised me with his patience, his humour, his kindness, and his willingness to allow me access to his family and friends as well as insights into his most guarded personal life and history. The fact that he has co-operated so willingly is testimony to the high regard he holds for his fans.
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