Sam Neill, star of Jurassic Park, recently shared that he is battling a “ferocious type of aggressive” non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In March of 2022, the 75-year-old star received a shocking diagnosis: Stage three cancer. His initial thought was: “I’m dying.” With no other options, he began writing as a coping mechanism and to take his mind off of his situation. “[Writing gave] me a reason to get through the day,” he told the BBC.
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Did I Ever Tell you This? his recent memoir, the actor reflects on his long-term battle with ill health and a successful career spanning nearly five decades in show business. Last year, while on a press tour for his latest film Jurassic World Dominion, Neill noticed lumpy glands in his neck.
Upon hearing his diagnosis, he maintained a stoic demeanor; however, it caused him to re-evaluate his life. “I thought I need to do something, and I thought, ‘Shall I start writing?'” he explained. “I didn’t think I had a book in me, I just thought I’d write some stories. And I found it increasingly engrossing. A year later, not only have I written the book – I didn’t have a ghostwriter,” he quipped. “But it’s come out in record time.”
Sam Neill nearly had a dark subtitle for his memoir
“I suspect my publishers, they’re delightful people, but I think they wanted to get it out in a hurry just in case I kicked the bucket before it was time to release the thing.” At a certain point, he even considered titling this book “Notes from a Dying Man.” He recounts dark days, having lost his hair after the initial round of chemotherapy. Looking in the mirror he saw a changed man, one that is no longer recognizable to him. “There’s a bald, wizened old man there,” Neill recalled. “More than anything I want my beard back. I don’t like the look of my face one bit.”
Fortunately, the Hunt for the Wilderpeople star is now in remission and has a positive outlook on his future. “I’m not afraid of dying,” Neill points out. “What I don’t want to do is to stop living, because I really enjoy living.” He added, “I’ve regarded it as an adventure, quite a dark adventure, but an adventure nevertheless. And the good days are just fantastic and when you get some good news it’s absolutely exhilarating.”
Neill is emphatic that his book is not about cancer. “I can’t stand cancer books,” he jokes. Instead, he prefers to speak about his delightful and unexpected life journey of performing in more than 70 movies, which have featured some of the greatest actors including Meryl Streep, Sylvester Stallone, and Jeff Goldblum.
Thankfully, the story concludes on a positive note. Although Neill must still complete chemotherapy sessions, his tumors have finally vanished. “The last thing I want is for people to obsess about the cancer thing,” Neill explained. “I’m not really interested in cancer. I’m not really interested in anything other than living.” Sam Neill’s memoir, Did I Ever Tell You? drops March 23rd.