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  1. Culture
  2. Q&A
1 March 2018updated 08 Sep 2021 2:21pm

“The world has been run for far too long by dull white men”

By Séamus O’Neill

Sam Neill was born in 1947 in Northern Ireland, moving to New Zealand when he was seven. His first major role was in the 1977 New Zealand film “Sleeping Dogs”. Other credits include “Jurassic Park”, “The Piano”, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and his latest film, “Sweet Country”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Serious whooping cough aged two or
three in a little room in the upper floor of a little house on the rocks off the coast in County Tyrone.

Who was your childhood hero?

My older brother. He persists in that role to this day. He’s an academic and he teaches English. He was always interested in drama and music, which eventually became my interests as well.

What was the last book that you couldn’t put down?

I just put down Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. I haven’t read a single line there that I think would be fictitious. It’s a book for our time.

Which politician, past or present, do you look up to?

I’m very encouraged by the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. She is fierce and compassionate. What she is not is male, pale and stale. The world has been run for far too long by dull white men of a certain age.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

I know a little about a lot of things. I’m like a plank of wood, I’m rather thick.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The Victorians get a bad rep. Prudish, people say. I don’t know how they bred so well, if they’re so prim and proper. They had inquisitive minds. They were inventing types of science!

What TV show could you not live without?

I’m a bit of a political junkie. Though it can be deeply depressing, current politics is as good an entertainment as we can wish for.

Who would paint your portrait?

Could you ask David Hockney if he’d like to volunteer?

What’s your theme tune?

Anything with a ukulele. I enjoy “The Ecstasy of Dancing Fleas” by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I actually read it the other day: happiness is the feeling you get when you get something done. It could be any number of things. Happiness is getting the dishes not just washed, but dried and put away. It’s a pretty simple formula. And it works.

What’s currently bugging you?

I’m addicted to Twitter, but I’m not sure if it’s healthy or a good thing.

What single thing would make your life better?

If the world was run by more sensible people, with more brains and know-how.

When were you happiest?

I think, probably, a couple of days ago. I did a couple of jobs around the farm. I felt pretty good about that. I shepherded the sheep myself. I have an electric bike. I hung a couple of pictures and they look good.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I didn’t really choose my job. I wouldn’t choose my job, I’d just wait until one turned up. Perhaps an architect: I enjoy mid-20th century modernist architecture.

Are we all doomed?

I certainly hope not. Hopefully those with fingers on triggers are surrounded by sensible people. 

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