In exciting news for lovers of excellence, international treasure Sam Neill is starring as Lord Carnarvon in new adventure-drama miniseries Tutankhamun. Anyone who’s a true fan of the man – and aren’t we all? – will have no problem believing he could play a thrill-seeking noble on the hunt for Egyptian artifacts against all odds. Why? Because he’s the greatest. Why? Here are a few reasons that fit this tragically limited word count.
He’s played all the big names
Even though he’s a Kiwi (yeah, I know...), Sam’s been called upon to portray some of the biggest names in British culture. In 1998 he was Merlin in the miniseries of the same name, he tackled the role of Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors, and he almost got the role of James Bond after Roger Moore. After all that, Lord Carnarvon should be a snap.
He redesigned the Australian flag
When Sam played Dr William Weir in 1997’s Event Horizon, he decided it was high time to reimagine our national flag for the future setting. His concept incorporated the Aboriginal flag in the place of the Union Jack, a small grace note that most people wouldn’t even notice while watching. But that’s Sam – all about the details.
He made all those Jurassic Park gifs possible
Way back in 1993, audiences thrilled to the sight of dinosaurs come back to life in Jurassic Park. In 2016, Sam’s bravura performance as child-hating Dr Alan Grant has come back to life itself, in the form of gifs that take his sunglass-removing shock at the sight of breathing brontos and turn it into recontextualised comedy gold.
He dances for meat
Even if you’re a vegetarian, vehemently disagreeing with the slogan “We’re meant to eat it”, you can’t help but be enticed into the world of carnivorous joy through Sam’s jaunty dance at the end of this ad. Plus it kinda sounds like he’s playing Dr Grant again, talking about “our ancestors” and all that stuff. Oddly, though, he recently told Graham Norton that he names the animals on his farm after celebrities so as not to eat them. “I do name a lot of my animals as an insurance policy,” he said, “because if you name a chicken Meryl Streep, in all fairness you can’t eat Meryl Streep.”
He did Sirens
Often, when an actor is so brilliant, it’s difficult to separate them from the character they portray. In a performance especially appreciated by the 13-year-old boys of 1993, Sam Neill – as Norman Lindsay – convinced a cavalcade of beautiful women to disrobe for his art. It’s a powerful biography of one of Australia’s greatest painters, forever seared into the national psyche (well, mine anyway).
He fought Neo in The Matrix
No, wait. That was Hugo Weaving. Let’s move on.
He was definitely in Death in Brunswick
This 1990 film, also starring Zoe Carides, represents everything that’s always been great about Australian cinema. Sam plays a chef, Cookie, who gets caught up in a world of drugs, organised crime and violence. It’s a black comedy with knife-based murder that still holds up today – even if Brunswick looks a fair bit different 26 years later.
He runs a winery in New Zealand
Not only that, he tweets from the winery’s account. Apparently the pinot noir is excellent. And even more apparently, he doesn’t mind shipping free crates of vino to blokes who write fawning profiles on TV websites. Isn’t Sam amazing?
Tutankhamun premieres Wednesday, 2 November at 9.30pm on SBS. Watch the first episode on SBS On Demand: