In this unexpected memoir, written in a creative burst of just a few months in 2022, Sam Neill tells the story of how he became one of the world’s most celebrated actors, who has worked with everyone from Meryl Streep to Isabel Adjani, from Jeff Goldblum to Sean Connery, from Steven Spielberg to Jane Campion.
By his own account, his career has been a series of unpredictable turns of fortune. Born in 1947 in Northern Ireland, he emigrated to New Zealand at the age of seven. His family settled in Dunedin on the South Island, but young Sam was sent away to boarding school in Christchurch, where he was hopeless at sports and discovered he enjoyed acting.
But how did you become an actor in New Zealand in the 1960 and 1970s where there was no film industry? After university he made documentary films while also appearing in occasional amateur productions of Shakespeare. In 1977 he took the lead in Sleeping Dogs, the first feature made in New Zealand in more than a decade, a project that led to a major role in Gillian Armstrong’s celebrated My Brilliant Career.
And after that Sam Neill found his way, sometimes by accident, into his own brilliant career. He has worked around the world, an actor who has moved effortlessly from blockbuster to art house to TV, from Dr Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park movies to The Piano and Peaky Blinders.
Did I Ever Tell You This? is a joy to read, a marvellous and often very funny book, the work of a natural storyteller who is a superb observer of other people, and who writes with love and warmth about his family. It is also his account of his life outside film, especially in Central Otago where he established Two Paddocks, his vineyard famous for its pinot noir.
INTERVIEWS and REVIEWS
10Play: The Project
ABC Listen: Conversations
ABC News: Australian Story
ABC Radio Melbourne: Friday Breakfast
ABC Radio Melbourne: Songs and Stories
Guardian: the best Australian books out in March
Melbourne Writers Festival podcast
NZ Herald: The Year in Books: Our Top Memoir & Life Story Picks ($)
Radio NZ: Saturday
Real Review: Sam Neill on wine, books and movies
Stuff.co.nz: Sam Neill shares what it was really like making The Piano in his new memoir
Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Awkward as hell’: Co-star accused of shunning Sam Neill
Telegraph (UK) ($)
‘Just wonderful, so funny and charming and sharp. Sam Neill’s lively, lovely book made me laugh out loud.’
‘Sam Neill is a legend, and in this magnificent book he shares his stories of family, friends and film with delicious irreverence, compassion and grace.’
‘Sam Neill is one of my favourite people in the world, and a great entertainer. Did I Ever Tell You This? is full of warm, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking stories. It will make you feel like you have just sat down under a tree to chat with a dear friend.’
‘Fabulously entertaining, insanely readable.’
‘The book, which has a delicious, winding stair structure, finishes buoyant with hope and is all the richer for the terminal framing…The book radiates drama and comical digression in equal measure…Did I Ever Tell You This? is a lovely book, bewitchingly meandering. This is that rarest of things, a memoir by an actor without vanity.’
‘Rather than the star who makes heads turn in the street, he comes across as an ordinary bloke, unpretentious, down-to-earth, a bit confounded by the track he’s found himself on over the years, but still quite pleased about it.’
‘A brilliant and eye-opening look into Neill’s life…deeply personal yet highly relatable. You’ll both laugh and cry with Neill, feeling like you’re on his journey with him at each turn of the page. This is a heartwarming, wise and highly recommended read.’
‘[A] charming, seemingly honest and frequently self-deprecating trawl through the life and career of one of New Zealand’s finest and certainly most popular acting exports.’
‘I finished this memoir feeling like I had been at a raucous dinner party, seated next to him of course, where tales are flung from one end of the earth to the other and the evening finishes with a lovely Two Paddocks pinot noir. And a relief that he is in remission. Read this memoir because it turns out that Sam Neill is an excellent dinner party guest.’
‘In all his films Neill seems to naturally inhabit his parts, as he does in this memoir that reminds you of a brilliant dinner conversation where pretension has been left at the door and a glass of pinot noir (from Neill’s Two Paddocks vineyard, maybe) placed in your hand.’