Sam Neill Says We Can All Identify with Working Class Crims
Ask Peaky Blinders star New Zealander Sam Neill to account for the success of the BBC’s six-parter about Birmingham razor gangs – an odd but winning mix of industrial grime, street violence, catwalk-friendly fashion and cutting-edge haircuts – and Neill toes the party line with purring conviction.
“Oh, I think [it’s] the quality of the writing. There’s something very…” Neill begins. “People like outlaws, you know? And there’s a terrible sense in which [Neill’s role as Detective Inspector Chester] Campbell is right – the Peaky Blinders are scum!” he declares with a grin. “Also, the other end of the scale is Downton Abbey. Now who do you identify with in Downton Abbey?”
When Neill slips into Campbell’s accent today, the transformation is remarkable. Whereas his speaking voice is mellifluous and honeyed and suits his horizontally laid-back demeanour, the character’s back-of-the-throat growl is instantly transformative.
“It’s amazing what I realised this time back [filming] – once you wrap your mouth around it, and you’ve given conviction to the words, I found myself speaking at three times my normal volume. Just this huge, huge thing – your voice turns into this instrument. You know, we’ve all heard [the Rev Ian] Paisley and people like that – it’s a voice that’s very well-suited for standing on a street corner and giving it hell.”
Does he see himself doing another big Hollywood production? “Yeah, I never say no to anything,” comes his sanguine reply. “Whatever [script] comes through my letterbox, I’m always happy to look at. I’m always pleased when I’m going somewhere new, and working with new people or with people I know already. I feel very privileged working with other actors. Actors tend to be the best company I know.
“I like to be busy,” he shrugs. “And I’m always busy. Because if I’m not working, I’m doing wine. So I’m very engaged in life one way or another.
Peaky Blinders season two screens now on the UK’s BBC Two.
Original article by Craig McLean, The Telegraph, September 30, 2014.