‘It was an overload time’ —that’s how Sam Neill describes the time spent shooting in India, and the memories continue to bring a smile to his face. And the bond with the country is more personal for the Hollywood actor.
Neill came to India back in the 90s to shoot Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1994), which introduced him to the ‘desi’ world in Mumbai and Jodhpur.
“I made a film in the country, and when you say India to me, all the time spent making it comes back to me so vividly. It was an amazing experience for me to be there. I found it overwhelming,” Neill tells us.
Revisiting the time spent in the country, the 74-year-old mentions, “It was beautiful, but it was too beautiful. It was noisy, but it was too noisy. It was colourful, but it was too colourful. All my senses were overloaded the whole time I was in the country.”
The actor, who once again entered the Jurassic World as paleontologist Alan Grant for Jurassic World Dominion, terms it “an extraordinary place”, as he gushes, “We stayed at the enormous palace of Maharaja of Jodhpur, the part which is a hotel. It was the most beautiful place”.
“But it was the evenings on the terrace, overlooking the plains in one direction in Jodhpur, and in the other direction, the distant horizons of that extraordinary arid land with that lovely blue sky changing colour as the sun goes down,” Neill paints an image of his experience in the country beautifully.
During the conversation, he takes some pauses as walks down the memory lane to bring out the moments which defined his visit to the country. “Wow, it was overload time,” he just blurts out.
In fact, there are aspects from his myriad experiences that continue to make him anxious till date. “I still get anxious when I think of hurtling down Indian roads in one of those sort of 50s Morris taxis, dodging people carrying things, weaving around cars. I would have to close my eyes in cars, because every minute we seem to be close to death. But in India, it seemed completely normal,” he says with a big laugh.
“After eight or ten weeks, I got on the plane and just breathed a sigh of relief. I thought to myself ‘it is the most extraordinary experience of my life’. But I just needed a little calm,” he says, revealing that “his ancestors served in India with the Army”.
As a happy coincidence, he reveals, “In the version of The Jungle Book, I was playing the role of a British Army officer, just what my ancestors were, and played with a moustache”.
“The generation on my mother’s side were a part of the Indian army, so we go way back. We have a lot of family connections there one. In some way, it’s somewhere in my DNA. India felt like I was going home,” says the actor, who has featured in projects such as My Brilliant Career, Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession, The Piano, and courted international fame with Dr. Alan Grant.
“Getting back as Alan for Jurassic World Dominion was great, as I was working with some very old friends, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern. When we were making the first part, we survived a hurricane. This time, we survived a pandemic…. We never thought we would be able to complete the film…I’m very happy that we got it done. We got through it, we survived. And, and it’s something that a lot of people are gonna get a lot of pleasure out of,” he concludes.
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