Sam Neill with his Two Paddocks range
Of all the places you’ve travelled for your film projects, which have been the most memorable?
At last count I think I have worked in well over 30 different countries, and I have seen some really remarkable places. Last year, for instance, we spent some weeks right on the Namibian/South African border [filming ITV’s mini-series Tutankhamun]. It was the closest thing on earth to the surface of Mars and yet, just below us, winding through this beautiful desolation, was the Orange River. This meant a strip of unimaginable fertility perhaps 100 yards wide, supporting all kinds of life. Birds of all kinds, mammals, trees and of course, people. I loved every day there, particularly drifting downstream in a canoe.
There’s a lot of striking scenery in the acclaimed New Zealand film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople – can you tell me a bit about what was it like filming in New Zealand?
Well, it’s home. And it was winter, so I was prepared. Cold often, but never less than exhilarating. It’s a great place to film, New Zealand; the landscape changes radically every few miles. All our shoot was in the North Island, and a fair bit of that was on the Central Plateau, below the great volcanoes Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. A lot of critics say that the landscape was like another important character in the film, and they want to get on a plane and visit as soon as possible.
If you were to recommend a destination in New Zealand for travellers seeking seclusion, where would it be?
I would have to say the West Coast of the South Island. Very under populated, very remote and very beautiful. Take some good insect repellant, however.
You have a winery, Two Paddocks, in New Zealand’s Central Otago – what attracted you to the region and why do you think it produces such a premium product?
Don’t get me started. Oh, all right, you have. Cool climate, hard work, schist soils, innovative people, a spirit of cooperation, dazzling sunlight, low humidity, vision, clay, thousands of years of imported wine culture and vine material from Burgundy, courage and/or foolhardiness…the list goes on.
Do you have a favourite wine from your portfolio?
That’s very hard. Perhaps our Two Paddocks Last Chance Pinot Noir – this is from the second vineyard we planted in 1998, and perhaps the world’s southernmost vineyard. Or Two Paddocks The Fusilier Pinot Noir. This comes from our newest vineyard, planted in 2000 on Felton Road in Bannockburn. Quite a different style of pinot, but extraordinarily impressive.
Where do you like to go for a leisure holiday?
I don’t really like leisure, so I don’t go on leisure holidays. They sound ghastly.
Do you have a travel bucket list? If so, what’s next on the list for you to check off?
I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and Iran. I’m interested in antiquity. No one wants to go to these places much at the moment, which is probably a very good reason to go. At least I think so.
In your mind, what is the ultimate luxury?
For a start, it won’t have a ‘brand’ name anywhere near it. I like simplicity. I really dislike any display of wealth. Big yachts…things like that turn my stomach.So, I’m probably against the idea of luxury altogether, especially the idea of ultimate luxury. Just give me a simple white cottage in the middle of nowhere, some mountain scenery, a river or two for fly-fishing – that’ll do me. And plenty of pinot noir, of course. Oh, I think I know the place…home.