After announcing his cancer diagnosis (and subsequently reassuring fans that he’s in remission) this month, Sam Neill directed his fans’ attention to happier topics when he published his new memoir “Did I Ever Tell You This?” The book is filled with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Neill’s extensive filmography, including “The Piano” and “Peaky Blinders.”
But of course, Neill’s stories about making “Jurassic Park” were bound to attract the most eyeballs. The actor landed one of the biggest roles of his career when Steven Spielberg cast him in his 1993 dinosaur classic — but worried that he was the wrong fit for the role.
“I was racked by the usual insecurities,” Neill wrote in his book. “Why me? I’m certainly not an action hero. The idea of me going hand to hand with Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger is simply absurd. I’m more of the ordinary guy on screen. If indeed I was supposed to be that sort of action guy, I was already, I think, forty-five years old, and as always had left things about ten or fifteen years too late.”
According to Neill, those feelings worsened when the film’s marketing campaign made it very clear that the real stars of the movie were the CGI dinosaurs, not the actors.
“The impostor syndrome would be enhanced later on when we were out and about promoting the movie,” he wrote. “The more or less official line from Universal Pictures was that, with ‘Jurassic Park,’ they had set out to prove that they, with Spielberg, could make huge blockbusters without ‘movie stars’. This was true enough, but I think it slightly irked us, the actors, to be reminded from time to time we were not real ‘stars’. It also rather overlooked the well-established and highly respected careers of Laura, Jeff and Dicky. As it turned out, we know now that Harrison Ford turned down the part, so the ‘no movie star’ plan may be not entirely true.”
That said, Neill made it clear that his grievances with the film’s marketing were a small price to pay to be in such an iconic film.
“I emphasize the word ‘slightly’, because more than anything we were all delighted to be working with Steven,” he wrote. “And to be working on something that would be absolutely groundbreaking, as it turned out.”