Neill reveals why he was reluctant to join the cast of ‘Rams’ at first.
Might as well just state the obvious first; this right here is a bucket list interview for me. Jurassic Park is my favorite movie of all time and I’ve come to admire Sam Neill more so than ever recently because of how much his social media feeds regularly brighten my day – often just when I need it. That excitement aside, I was also thrilled to get to talk to him because he truly is fantastic in Rams, showing off an incredible amount of range in a single feature film.
Neill leads as Colin, a sheep farmer living on the same plot of land as his estranged brother Les (Michael Caton), with both tending to their own flocks. When one of Les’ prize-winning rams is diagnosed with Ovine Johne’s Disease, the government demands that Les, Colin and the rest of the farmers in the region purge their sheep. While most comply, Les doesn’t make it easy on the authorities and Colin turns to stealthier means to defy the order.
With Rams now available to watch on VOD, I got the opportunity to hop on a Zoom call with Neill to discuss his experience making the movie. Turns out, he was actually hesitant to accept the role at first. Here’s why:
“Every film is a challenge. And [Rams] was very challenging for me because I’d just finished Blackbird with Roger Michell and Susan Sarandon and so on, and that had been the third film [and] this was number four back-to-back. Four in one year is probably more than the doctor would advise and I was reluctant to take this on. I was reluctant to take it on because it’s sort of a remake of an Icelandic film and I wasn’t interested in doing a remake. And then I realized, when I read the script, it was entirely different really, in tone and in substance. And it was exhausting to do because I’m sort of in every scene. I never got a break and it took me right through to Christmas and then I got home a limp sack of a man.”
As I emphasize in the video, given the end results, it seems the film was well worth Neill’s time and energy. While there is tragedy in Rams, the movie is also quite charming and inspiring, leading Neill to dub it a “feel better” film:
“But I’m glad I did it because I’ve had such really good feedback from the film. I’ve been looking at what’s around in current cinema and what’s up for Oscars and so on, and it’s some really good films to be had, but they’re mostly bloody miserable, you know? And depressing. I’m reluctant to watch them because life’s pretty bleak as it is. I’m so concerned for humanity and my friends and my loved ones and for the countries that I love best, so the idea of watching more [misery] is unappealing. But people come out of this film going, ‘Oh god, I just feel better about things!’ I just coined the phrase in the last interview I did – it’s not a ‘feel good’ film, but it’s a ‘feel better’ film.”
If you’d like to hear more from Neill on Rams, be sure to check out our full conversation in the video at the top of this article! There might also be some Jurassic Park and Thor: Ragnarok talk in the mix for you.
- 00:00 – Neill on growing up an animal lover; applying that to his work.
- 02:23 – Why Neill was reluctant to join the Rams cast at first; why he calls Rams a “feel better” film.
- 06:25 – Neill adds to Rachel House’s comments regarding the value of culture on New Zealand film sets.
- 09:53 – Neill discusses the variety of tones he had to tackle in Rams; the challenge of being comedic.
- 14:05 – Neill talks about Jurassic Park III, and playing Alan Grant throughout the franchise.
- 16:45 – In Thor: Ragnarok, is Neill playing an Asgardian actor or the real Sam Neill being forced to act in plays by Loki?
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