By Stan Stewart.
Last week I gave into temptation in a big way. Wandering ‘Paper Plus’ I spied a recent release, ‘Sam Neill - Did I ever tell you this?’ Now he is my favourite actor but when I looked at the price $55, I hesitated. I was about to put it back when I read the reviews on the back cover. Amongst others were reviews by Meryl Streep, Stephen Fry and Jane Campion. That did it. I had to have this book and I have to have it now!
It is the second most expensive book I have ever bought; my wife would spend more. In college I bought a ‘must-have new release’ for $80AUD. I found it unreadable. However, it looked impressive on my bookshelf.
At home my eagle-eyed wife spotted Sam Neill’s book. “How much?” “$50” I said. $55 called out our adopted daughter who enjoys getting me in the cactus. Predictably, I was made to suffer for my extravagance (sort of).
I am not the only one who is prone to yield to temptation. My wife is also, but she is more the strategist. She hides the extravagant item. Then when I have made some horrible mistake, for instance, putting refuse in the wrong bin, she produces the expensive item. All I can do is to meekly agree with the wisdom of her extravagant purchase.
This book is a worthwhile buy. Sam Neill and I are somewhat alike. We are both half Kiwi and half Aussie. In Sam’s case, he is mostly Kiwi and in mine, I am mostly Aussie. However, the 50-50 affection for and identification with the two countries and their cultures is about the same.
In passing, while thinking of Australian and New Zealand issues I should comment on the writing of Trevor ‘someone-or-other’ directed at me in the last issue of The Informer. He was attempting to correct me on some matters of historical significance, Pavlova, Phar Lap and Aussie Rules Football. All I have to do to authenticate my case is to direct him to that bastion of Australian journalistic standards ‘The Melbourne Truth’. With neither fear nor favour, this newspaper refutes all scandalous re-writings of history.
I knew Sam Neil had been in many movies, but I had no idea he has starred in over 60 movies - not counting TV dramas. I have only seen a few of his movies but some of my favourites are ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, ‘Rams’ and ‘The Hunt for Red October’.
I was surprised to read Sam has cancer - ‘stage three angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma – cancer of the blood.’ His hospital visits and treatments are scattered throughout the book. In fact, because of this illness, he recently had to take a year off work, and he used this time to write the book. His bright and breezy book is written against this background.
In his long life in the film industry, he has met just about every film star I have ever heard of. He has worked with many of them. He shares these encounters candidly. Many of these are surprising and there is lots of humour. His family, past and present, walks with Sam through many of the chapters of the book. A wonderful read indeed.
What I found of particular interest are his musings about health and death. As with many of my contemporaries I have cancer issues. I know that if cancer doesn’t get me, NC (Natural Causes) will. So now and again, I think about death, and I guess most of you readers do also. Here is what Sam writes about death. (p386)
“I’d prefer to live. It’s more interesting, I think, than whatever happens next. I don’t believe in an afterlife, certainly not one with angels and harps. I do believe, I know, that you become quite literally part of the universe again. Every atom of my body, every part of my essence, is as old as the universe. It is imperishable, and although I won’t be reassembled in a white gown on a cloud, I will be around, disassembled to the end of time.
I have no fear of death, none whatsoever. That’s not courage, that’s just realism. I don’t particularly want to die on my own, that’s all.”
Sam does not come from a religious background. I do. But on this subject, his views and mine are very similar. His one anxiety is that he doesn’t want to die alone. Neither do I.
I am a fan of long-lasting marriages and partnerships. I know that you can get bored with each other, but constancy has its reward. I think if you have a relationship, you know will last to the end, you can kick cancer or for that matter - NC (natural causes) in the guts. You’re not alone.
Caption: "Acting tip - if in doubt, point at something. In this case I am pointing to the future."