NBC Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
NBC Insider Apples Never Fall

Running From Dinosaurs, a Dad Under Suspicion: What to Know About Sam Neill's Impressive Career

Sam Neill may be best known for his role as Dr. Alan Grant in the megahit Jurassic Park, but the talented actor has more than 150 acting credits to his name. 

By Jill Sederstrom

Sam Neill is a beloved fixture in the ‘90s mega hit Jurassic Park, playing the gruff but lovable Dr. Alan Grant in the sci-fi thriller. 

But the veteran actor’s career extends far beyond running from prehistoric dinosaurs. Whether its playing a stoic New Zealand frontiersman in The Piano or an adventurous foster uncle in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Neill has proved he has the versatility to take on a wide range of characters. 

During his decades-long career, his talent has been on full display as he acted alongside some of Hollywood’s best including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Sean Connery, and Laura Dern.

"I can't tell you how privileged I am to spend that amount of time with so many actors, so many of whom I've really enjoyed and so many of whom I've really admired,” Neill told Australian Story last year.

In his latest role, Neill will star in the Peacock limited series mystery Apples Never Fall as retired tennis coach Stan Delaney. Stan becomes the prime focus of a police investigation after his wife Joy, portrayed by Oscar nominee Annette Bening, suddenly disappears under troubling circumstances.

Apples Never Fall2

The seven-part limited series, which is based on Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel of the same name, will premiere March 14 on the streaming network. 

RELATED: Jake Lacy Shares the Sweetest BTS Moment from The Office — and It Has to Do with Jenna Fischer

“I was drawn to this family that, like most families, has its dysfunctionality,” Neill said in press materials of what inspired him to take the role. 

As fans await Neill’s latest endeavor, let’s revisit some of his most iconic roles during his decades-long career in Hollywood:

How did Sam Neill become an actor?

Neill’s first acting credit is the 1971 television movie The City of No, but his career really began to take off after appearing in the 1979 film My Brilliant Career with Judy Davis, according to his bio on IMDB. He then appeared in a series of movies in the 1980s including 1989’s Dead Calm, which saw him acting alongside Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane in the psychological thriller. 

Sam Neill poses in a black jacket.

In 1990, he played Captain Borodin in the spy thriller The Hunt for Red October, alongside Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. Neill took on the role of CIA operative David Jenkins two years later in Memoirs of an Invisible Man, before playing Alisdair Stewart in the 1994 Best Picture Academy Award Nominee The Piano, also starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel and a young Anna Paquin. 

In his memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This: A Memoir, Neill praised director Jane Campion and reflected on the challenge of playing the “deeply troubled” frontiersman in the film, calling him an “ugly man.” 

Patriarchal, uncommonly stupid and incapable of comprehending women or indeed the world he lives in. In particular, colonial New Zealand, where he has settled,” he wrote. “His faults are manifest. But, of course, it’s the other dimensions you can bring to a character that give them depth and interest and, with luck, some humanity.”

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) stands next to an electric fence in Jurassic Park (1993).

The Piano was an award show darling in 1994, earning nominations from the Academy Awards, Australian Film Institute, BAFTA Awards, and Golden Globes, but it was his role in the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park that would cement his place in pop culture history.

Who did Sam Neill play in Jurassic Park? 

Sam Neill played skeptical paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant in the action-packed Steven Spielberg movie, which would go on to gross more than $900 million worldwide in its original theatrical run. The movie became an instant classic, but as Neill pointed out in his memoir, it didn’t exactly make him a Hollywood star. 

Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park (1993).

"I owe so much to Spielberg and everyone involved, but I don't think the Jurassic series made any seismic shifts in my career," he wrote. "I didn't become Mr. Action Hero or anything ... Between Jurassic Park and Jurassic World Dominion, I went back to making films that interested me here and there, of varying quality."

What did Sam Neill do after Jurassic Park?

Neill, who has more than 150 acting credits to his name, continued to take on new roles in the wake of his Jurassic Park fame, including 1998’s The Horse Whisperer and 1999’s Bicentennial Man, where he played opposite comedy-great Robin Williams.

His other acting credits include The Zookeeper, Perfect Strangers, Wimbledon, Little Fish, The Hunter, A Long Way Down and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He also appeared in 12 episodes of the crime drama Peaky Blinders as Inspector Chester Campell. He opened up about how he wanted to portray the multi-dimensional “bad guy” in his memoir.

“When I had to play Major Campbell in Peaky Blinders, I pictured him growing up as an only child in some grim rectory in Ulster, a small boy without a mother, beaten daily by a brutal man in a dog collar,” he wrote of finding the character’s humanity.

In 2018, Neill took on the role of curmudgeonly Old Mr. McGregor in the family film Peter Rabbit.

Apples Never Fall3

He reprised his role of Dr. Alan Grant in 2022’s Jurassic World Dominion.

Who does Sam Neill play in Apples Never Fall?

In Apples Never Fall, which premieres March 14 on Peacock, Neill plays Stan Delaney, a father of four who is just beginning to enjoy his retirement when a mysterious stranger arrives at the front door. Months later, his wife, Joy, suddenly disappears and Stan quickly becomes the prime suspect as his grown children and police grow suspicious of his activities. 

Aside from Bening, the limited series also stars Jake Lacy, Alison Brie, Conor Merrigan-Turner, Essie Randles and Georgia Flood. 

Today, Neill may be 76 years old, but he isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon.

The idea of retirement fills me with horror, actually,” he told Australian Story.

Read more about: