TV & Film

'Alcatraz' Actor Sam Neill Talks Spooky New Show


Fox's crime drama "Alcatraz" brings a whole new level of time-traveling spookiness to primetime, and veteran actor Sam Neill seems to fit right in.

The Irish-born actor, who was raised in New Zealand, first became famous in the 1979 Australian film "My Brilliant Career," alongside a then-unknown Judy Davis. He's also graced the big screen in movies such as "The Hunt for Red October" and "Jurassic Park," among many, many others.

The 64-year-old spoke to The Huffington Post from the set of "Alcatraz" about his tendency to play brainy roles, the joys of being an oenophile and those "Jurassic Park IV" rumors.

So, "Alcatraz" is pretty spooky. Tell me more about it.
It’s a J.J. Abrams show, so you can take that there will be a sci-fi element to it, but the bedrock of the show is in Alcatraz itself, that little strange haunted island. The story switches between 1963, when all these guards and prisoners disappeared, and the present day, when they all start reappearing for reasons that will become apparent as the show progresses.

I play a character named Emerson Hauser, who is a grizzled veteran of a number of campaigns. He’s an FBI guy and has worked on a different number of cases in very bad parts of the world over the years. He heads this task force which on the one hand has to neutralize these dangerous people that are coming back, and on the other hand they are also in the business of finding out who’s behind all this.

Does "grizzled" mean you don’t have to shave?
No, it means he’s weathered, like me.

Do you think you’re weathered?
I’ve been around the block. Yes, I’ve done quite a few things, including a movie that was No. 1 at the box office, "The Vow." That was a bit of a surprise. You never know what people are going to see, but there’s no denying the pulling power of Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. They’re hot and they’re not grizzled.

You seem to get cast as smart characters pretty often. You don’t get cast as an idiot.
Well that’s a good thing, isn’t it, if that’s the case? It hadn’t occurred to me before, but thanks for pointing it out. I’m too stupid to notice!

I think it’s your voice. I can imagine you as a university lecturer.
Funnily enough, my brother’s a university lecturer. He’s an intelligent man in contrast to me.

Are you the village idiot of your family?
Yeah, I’m the thickhead of the family, no question.

Aren’t they proud that you’re a successful actor?
I certainly always detect a certain amount of surprise that I’ve actually been able to earn a living from it at all.

I've heard rumors that "Jurassic Park IV" might be happening. Any details you can give us?
I know no more than you. I’ve heard nothing, and furthermore, I’m very disinclined to believe anything on the web altogether apart from my own website, which is entirely authoritative about everything. The website is about my winery.

Do you like to raise the glass?
It would be perverse to be a serious wine producer and not drink.

But there’s a difference between drinking and drinking.
Do you mean, am I a heavy drinker? Do I have to be driven home? I certainly don’t drink and drive, if that’s what you’re implying, but of course I think wine is one of life’s great pleasures and enhances most anything.

Have you been driven home?
Without question. It’s not a regular thing, as opposed to when I was a youth. Nobody has to stop on the way, if you get my drift. I don’t get drunk, but I’m a great believer in wine.

You’re very different from what I expected.
What did you expect?

I guess I thought I’d be a little scared of you.
I think you should be. I think that’s a reasonable response. You should certainly be scared of Hauser in "Alcatraz."

"Alcatraz" airs Mondays on FOX.

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