“The thing is, I’m crook. Possibly dying,” he writes in chapter one of the book, Did I Ever Tell You This? “I may have to speed this up.”
“I found myself with nothing to do,” The Jurassic Park star told The Guardian in an interview ahead of the release. “And I’m used to working. I love working. I love going to work. I love being with people every day and enjoying human company and friendship and all these things. And suddenly I was deprived of that. And I thought, ‘what am I going to do?’
“I never had any intention to write a book. But as I went on and kept writing, I realised it was actually sort of giving me a reason to live and I would go to bed thinking, ‘I’ll write about that tomorrow… that will entertain me.’ And so it was a lifesaver really, because I couldn’t have gone through that with nothing to do, you know.”
Per The Guardian, Neill first experienced swollen glands while doing publicity for Jurassic World Dominion in March last year and was soon diagnosed with angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma.
The 75-year-old actor will be on chemotherapy medication for the rest of his life, although he is now cancer-free.
“I’m not afraid to die,” he said, “but it would annoy me. Because I’d really like another decade or two, you know? We’ve built all these lovely terraces, we’ve got these olive trees and cypresses, and I want to be around to see it all mature. And I’ve got my lovely little grandchildren. I want to see them get big.
“But as for the dying? I couldn’t care less.”
In an interview with The Independent last month, Neill threw out the idea of retiring: “The idea of giving up my day job? Intolerable!
“I love acting. It’s really good for me to keep walking onto new sets with young actors and all that stimulation. New words, new ideas, there’s nothing like it. I never want to give that up. The idea of retirement, of having to play golf, fills me with untold dread,” he said.
The New Zealand actor spends most of his time at his 12-acre farm and vineyard in his native country where he rears chickens named after his former costars.
He was born in Northern Ireland in 1947 where his father, an army officer, was stationed at the time before moving back to his father’s native New Zealand in 1954.
His international breakthrough came in 1981 playing a cuckolded husband in Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 surreal divorce drama Possession.
Looking back, Neill told The Independent he thinks Zulawski was “a genius, but crazed. He asked so much more of you than you could possibly give. He asked much more than a director should.”
One such request included slapping his on-screen wife Isabelle Adjani across the face for real. “I have to say it was the most distressing thing I’ve ever had to do on film,” he said.
In 1993, Neill appeared in the role for which he will always be remembered: palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic Park.
He reprised the role in Jurassic Park III (2001) and the final film of the recent sequel trilogy, Jurassic World: Dominion (2022).
Neill recently said he still gets “a lot of flak” for his accent in the franchise, which is “somewhere in between” his real accent and American, per the request of director Steven Spielberg.