Queenstown – Equity New Zealand, which represents actors, has supported Sam Neill on his new title as knight companion of the order of New Zealand.
Equity New Zealand president, Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand, says the new title recognises Sir Sam’s extraordinary lifetime’s work and the profession of acting.
“Sam is a fine and generous actor. He is a consummate professional and his stellar career is a beacon for every up-and-coming New Zealand actor,” she says.
“Sam is highly regarded by all of us, and he has been bestowed an Equity NZ lifetime achievement award, decided on by actors and for actors.”
Sir Sam was made a knight companion of the order of New Zealand for services to acting on June 9 after declining the title in 2009. At the time he said he felt the title of sir was too grand by far, though politics and environmental issues may have had something to do with that.
Sir Sam says he has had a change of heart and is now accepting the title to increase the value placed on his profession.
“When I was first offered this honour in 2009, I turned it down. I thought I really wasn’t really old enough, and perhaps undeserving as well,” he says. Well, at 74 I am most certainly in the seniors now. Plus, I’ve put a few more runs on the board. As for the undeserving, I leave that for others to decide.”
He says he is also accepting the title to increase the recognition and worth of actors and professional performers.
“I’ve come to realise this isn’t just about me,” he says. “It is vital that all the arts are recognised and honoured.
“There are precious few acting knights or dames. This recognition I think is the community, the country saying yes, we value actors, and the contribution you make to our land. “
Dame Kate Harcourt was the only other actor recognised at this level until the Queen’s Birthday honours this year when Dame Carolyn Henwood’s service to theatre as well as for youth and the state were recognised.
Sir Sam says it is an honour to receive the title.
“So, with immense gratitude, I have accepted this great honour on behalf of all actors in Aotearoa,” he says.
Sam Neill is New Zealand’s most prolific actor having starred in movies such as Dead Calm, The Hunt for Red October, Jurassic Park, Sirens, Bicentennial Man, The Piano, Perfect Strangers and, this year, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Neill lives near Queenstown and owns the winery Two Paddocks in Central Otago. He is a supporter of the Australian Speak Easy Association and the British Stammering Association.