Actor Sam Neill, perhaps best known for his turn as Dr. Alan Grant in 1993’s Jurassic Park, opened up about a 2022 diagnosis of Stage 3 blood cancer, calling the disease “ferocious” but noting he was not afraid to die either.
Neill, 75, is a Northern Ireland-born New Zealander who first appeared on screen in 1971 while breaking through in the New Zealand film circuit. He got his first international break in 1981’s Omen III and shortly thereafter got on the shortlist to replace Sir Roger Moore for the prestigious role of James Bond.
Neill ultimately lost out to Timothy Dalton, and the franchise subsequently took a hiatus until Pierce Brosnan resurrected the franchise in 1995.
Neill revealed to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that while doing the requisite media rounds while promoting the 6th – and hopefully final – installment of the Jurassic Park franchise World Dominion, he noticed the glands on his neck did not feel normal. He visited a doctor and got the fateful diagnosis.
Neill, reflective of his culture, took the news stoically, although it gave him a jolt to prioritize his life and “take stock of things.”
“I thought I need to do something, and I thought, ‘Shall I start writing?'” he said to the BBC. “I didn’t think I had a book in me, I just thought I’d write some stories. And I found it increasingly engrossing.” Neill said writing gave him “a reason to get through the day.”
“The thing is, I’m crook. Possibly dying,” he writes in the first chapter of the book he completed over the next year, “Did I Ever Tell You This?”
Neill continued with the BBC, saying of the book: “A year later, not only have I written the book — I didn’t have a ghostwriter — but it’s come out in record time. I suspect my publishers, they’re delightful people, but I think they wanted to get it out in a hurry just in case I kicked the bucket before it was time to release the thing.”
Neill explained that while his cancer diagnosis, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, prompted the initial act of writing and is discussed at length in the final book, he made sure not to write purely about cancer because he “can’t stand cancer books.” Instead, most of the text focuses on his well-lived life.
And although Neill has said the disease is “ferocious” and the treatments are aggressive, he might also take solace in knowing that it is not a definitely fatal condition.
The Mayo Clinic describes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as “a type of cancer that begins in your lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s germ-fighting immune system. Advances in diagnosis and treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have helped improve the prognosis for people with this disease.”
Still, for anyone who has experienced chemotherapy or watched loved ones endure it, there is no sugar coating its impact. Neill shared in his book that after the first round of treatment, he was reduced to “a bald, wizened man.”
“More than anything I want my beard back. I don’t like the look of my face one bit,” he added.
The actor has also affirmed that he is “not afraid to die.”
“I’m not afraid to die,” he said in an interview with the Guardian, “but it would annoy me. Because I’d really like another decade or two, you know? We’ve built all these lovely terraces, we’ve got these olive trees and cypresses, and I want to be around to see it all mature. And I’ve got my lovely little grandchildren. I want to see them get big. But as for the dying? I couldn’t care less.”
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