Sam Neill tells Graham Norton: 'When I started writing my book, I didn't know how long I had to live'

Virgin Radio

27 Mar 2023, 07:30

Sam Neill

Credit: Getty

Jurassic Park actor Sam Neill has written a book, in shops now, entitled Did I Ever Tell you This?. "Not quite a memoir" - those are Graham's words - in it he discusses his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as his near 50-year career on screen.

The book, he is at pains to stress, is not about cancer, it's a book with cancer in it.

"It was written under constrained circumstances over a year ago," explains Sam. "I was told I had a very bad cancer and I was unable to go to work, so I thought I'd do something in its place. And so I started to write. I was just writing down stories for my kids as much as anything, and then, after a while, that accumulated to the extent that I thought maybe if I extend this a bit, maybe it's a book."

He continues, "And so I wrote for four months, flat out, because I wasn't quite sure how long I had to live. But I survived. And then I sat on it for a couple of months. I asked myself if it was something I wanted anyone to see, but I plucked up my courage, got hold of three publishers that were recommended to me, and they all came back within 24 hours saying, 'we want to publish your book'. So that was sort of kind of heartening. Here we are a year later, I'm still alive and kicking, and then the book is out..."

Graham asked Sam if the cancer diagnosis changed the way he remembered events in his life.

"I think it made me look back," he says. "I never looked back much. There's no point in looking back. But here I had the opportunity to look back, and sort of evaluate where I've been, what mattered to me, and the people I loved and the things that made me laugh, as well as all the ridiculous scrapes I've got myself into. It was an opportunity to sort of reevaluate my life and what's happened."

He continues, "It was it was lovely to go back and spend time in Ireland again, growing up there, and spend time with my parents who were so odd and eccentric and adorable. I enjoyed remembering all that was good. And some of the some of the bad stuff, too. I think it gave me a perspective."

Like what?

He says, "Well, I felt inordinately grateful for the life I've had, which has been a tremendous surprise to me. I never thought I would be an actor. And you know how they always tell children, 'follow your dreams'. Well, I didn't have any dreams, so it's all been a bit of a surprise. It continues to surprise me. Here I am talking to Graham Norton on the radio now. Who would have imagined that?"

Listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show every Saturday AND Sunday from 9:30 am on Virgin Radio or catch up on-demand here.