Sam Neill is best known for his role as Dr. Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park film franchise. Now, along with acting, the 71-year-old owns the vineyard Two Paddocks, and likes to take advantage of the scenery every morning with a little yoga. Not just any yoga, however. Often Neill, an animal lover, will be joined by one of his many pets. This time, it was his pet pig, who decided to join Neill as he was stretching into an upward facing dog.
So The Pig and I do our stretching routine together these mornings; we take turns while the other coaches. Here we demonstrate the "Upward Facing Dog". Or "The Cobra" to the Pig. [ he's more Yoga than Pilates.] 'Just 3 more Sam !''Yes coach.' Omm. pic.twitter.com/dM3CvMNdcS— Sam Neill (@TwoPaddocks) January 27, 2019
Neill lives on the Two Paddocks vineyard with a host of other animals, including cows, more pigs, chickens, and ducks.
In February, pre-lockdown, cameraman Simon Winter and I met Sam Neill at his favourite café in historic Clyde, Central Otago.
“We all need to have coffee,” he had stated plaintively.
And there he was, pulling into town behind the wheel of his Mr-Bean-issue 1960 Austin A40.
One look at the car and we knew we had to rig a go-pro and get the drone up to capture him pootling across the scenic bridge over the Clutha River.
But after coffee.
You spent your earliest years in Northern Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. What food do you recall having?
Northern Ireland wasn’t exactly a gastronomic destination in those days. It was also a time of rations. I remember the day rationing ended and hurtling off to the sweet shop for as many Mars bars as we could afford (probably just the one). My mother, God bless her, was not much of a cook. The only real memory I have of eating anything at all was bread and dripping. Not bad, too, as I remember it. Is that possible?
In 1993, you planted your first grapes for your Two Paddocks wine label in the Central Otago region. What was it like opening the first bottle of your own wine?
A revelation. I had no great ambitions initially. Something quaffable and fun to drink with my friends would have been fine. But this was better than that. And it started the whole crazy 25-year-saga of my life as a vigneron. I knew then that better was fine, but best was what I wanted.
You’ve filmed in more than 60 countries. What have your most memorable meals been?
I started working abroad just as the world was waking up to good cooking. Some of my first jobs were in France, when French food was great. I don’t recommend it any more. I think tourism has buggered it – and the brasseries that I once loved are lazy shadows of what they once were. When I lived in London in the early ’80s, you were hard-pressed to find a decent meal. Now it’s the city to eat in.
Your farm animals are named after friends of yours, such as Anjelica Huston, Taika Waititi and Meryl Streep. Why?
It means that no one will serve them for dinner. I mean, who could possibly want to eat Taika Waititi? He’s a national treasure.
That’s been your greatest achievement as a winemaker?
That is the hardest question of all. But let’s say Two Paddocks 2016 The First Paddock Pinot Noir, which I loved, and then Wine Spectator in the USA gave it 95 points. So after planting those first vines in Gibbston, that mad decision to grow wine there continues to be have been the right idea after all.
And what you have you been most proud of as an actor?
Staying in work. Still. After all these years.