One of the most famous film personalities to hail from the South Pacific, New Zealand-bred actor Sam Neill possesses the kind of reassuring handsomeness and soft-spoken strength that have made him an ideal leading man. Born Nigel Neill to a military family in Omagh, Northern Ireland, Neill relocated to New Zealand in 1953 at the age of six. There he picked up the nickname that would become his stage name, and attended both the University of Canterbury and the University of Victoria before beginning his acting career. Neill labored as a director/editor/screenwriter for the New Zealand National Film Unit for several years; he made his first movie in 1975 and scored his first significant film success four years later as the romantic lead opposite Judy Davis in director Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career. Shortly thereafter, Neill was brought to England under the sponsorship of star James Mason (who undoubtedly recognized the marked similarity between his acting style and Neill's).
The actor's subsequent movie work included two memorable collaborations with actress Meryl Streep and director Fred Schepisi: Plenty (1985) and A Cry in the Dark (1988). Neill's British TV credits were highlighted by his starring role in the unorthodox espionage drama Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983), for which he won the British television BAFTA Best Actor award. He also began working on American films during the '80s, including the 1981 Omen sequel The Final Conflict (in which he demonstrated a considerable breadth of range as Satan's son Damien) and the 1987 TV miniseries Amerika. Neill also kept busy with projects down under, with perhaps his most memorable film being Dead Calm (1989), a masterfully crafted thriller that starred the actor as Nicole Kidman's husband.