Sam Neill is known for appearing in the “Jurassic Park” movies, but lately his health has been landing him in the news.
Earlier this year, Neill revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 3 blood cancer in March 2022. Back then he called the illness “ferocious,” and in a new interview, he’s admitting that while he’s not sure exactly how much time he has left, he’s not scared of dying.
Specifically, the actor said he’s “not remotely afraid” of death, and even finds the idea of dying “annoying” because he still has things he’d like to do.
Speaking to the television program “Australian Story,” Neill detailed his diagnosis of angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, saying he was in “a fight for my life.” He underwent a few months of “brutal” chemotherapy, something he said stripped him of “any kind of dignity.”
His doctor, Orly Lavee, appeared on the show to explain that before he was even done with the first round of chemo, the cancer proved to be resistant to the treatment and became even more aggressive. She said many patients choose to stop treatments altogether if this happens, but Neill was “quite keen” on keeping up the fight.
She prescribed a “novel” drug as the next step in his treatment, and he said it was a “surprise” when it actually worked.
“That was a year ago now,” Neill said of the new medicine, “and I have been in remission ever since then, and I’m immensely grateful for that. It’s not something I can finish, I will be on this for the rest of my life. Every two weeks I go in and get beaten up again. It’s like going 10 rounds with a boxer, but it’s keeping me alive. And being alive is infinitely preferable to the alternative.”
Because of the successful treatment, the actor said he’s been able to do “my first sort of substantial work for over a year.”
He said, “The idea of retirement fills me with horror, actually. To not be able to do the things that you love would be heartbreaking. But I’ve also got to be realistic in that one doctor said to me, ‘This stuff will stop working one day too.’ So I’m prepared for that. I’m ready for it. And I think I’ve done some good things… not all of them have been good. We all have regrets. But I think I can live by myself, and I can die by myself OK.”
Neill’s son, Tim, said the actor doesn’t like to talk about his illness, admitting that he didn’t even know what type of cancer his father had until news articles began coming out on the topic.
Sam Neill details his cancer diagnosis in his memoir. (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
“It’s not interesting to me,” Neill confessed with a wide smile. “I’m not interested in cancer. I’ve got other things on my mind, and it’s not cancer… I know I’ve got it, but I’m not really interested in it.”
Something he did find worthwhile, though, was the idea to leave behind stories for his loved ones. While he was struggling with treatment after the initial diagnosis, he decided to jot down things that he wanted his children and grandchildren to remember, and that eventually became his memoir, “Did I Ever Tell You This?”, released in March.
“I started to think I better write some of this down because I’m not sure how long I have to live,” he said. “I was running against the clock… I thought it would be great for them to have some of my stories. I mightn’t be here in a month or two. We’ll leave something for them.”