MOVIE star Sam Neill will play a special role in Portadown tonight (Friday) as he raises a glass (and several bottles) of wine to introduce his high-quality ‘Two Paddocks’ New Zealand vintages to the town.
The Omagh-born star of blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Omen III, The Piano and The Hunt for Red October will be at the Seagoe Hotel for a winemakers’ dinner - invited guests only. But beforehand (7-7.45pm), he wants to meet the Portadown public for a ‘wine-signing’ of bottles of his pinot noir - patrons will be invited to buy a bottle, and have a chat with him about his high-powered film career and about his wines.
“I’m looking forward to visiting Northern Ireland,” Neill told the Portadown Times from the set of the BBC production ‘Peaky Blinders’, a gangster saga which is shooting in Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, set in the days after World War I.
He added that the Portadown event is part of a three-day tour of the province, taking in Belfast, Londonderry, Fermanagh and Armagh. He is being represented in Northern Ireland by Portadown wine merchants Robb Brothers, Charles and Philip, as well as their sister Norma.
“I also hope to spend some time in Omagh where I was born,” added Neill whose New Zealander father was stationed in the Tyrone town as an officer with the Irish Guards when Sam came into the world in September 1947. They returned ‘down under’ when Sam was seven.
Fans will have the opportunity to chat with him about his film career and about the vineyard he established in Central Otaga on South Island a few years ago. He said, “I’d like to think the vineyard supports me, but it’s the other way round - not very economic, I’m afraid. But very satisfying. I suppose it’s in the blood. The Neills owned the largest wine importing company in New Zealand, and it’s a wonderful hobby, so different from acting.”
On his films, he is, of course, proud to have been Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, but pressed on his favourite movie, he commented, “Tell your readers to be sure and see Dean Spanley (2008), a comedy drama in which I co-starred with Peter O’Toole. That, believe me, was some experience and, yes, he’s even larger than life than his image. It’s a super movie and I’m particularly proud of that one.”
Now in his 60s, and busier than ever, films The Tomb and Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box are due out next year, and Sam adores mixing his golden career with his wines output - pinot noirs and rieslings which his team produce from the most southerly vineyard in the world.
“Being in England for the BBC presented a real opportunity for me to visit the country of my birth, and I’m really relishing meeting the local people,” he said. “So I’m inviting them to come along, chat about films and learn about my Two Paddocks wines.”