Sam Neill Talks Losing His Famous Beard During Chemo And How His Cancer Was Misdiagnosed At First
As an actor, Sam Neill has had to fight with the prehistoric animals featured in the Jurassic Park movies (which are streaming). More recently though, the talented actor has been contending with a different type of battle, as he recently revealed that he received a blood cancer diagnosis of stage 3 angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma. Since the news became public, Neill has eased concerns about his condition, assuring the fans that he’s doing well. Now, he’s opening up about how he was initially misdiagnosed with something entirely different and lost his signature beard due to chemotherapy.
Sam Neill’s situation was made known through excerpts from his memoir, Did I Ever Tell You This?. Apparently, he first got an inkling that something was wrong when his neck seemed to look abnormal. In the book (via People), Neill explained that these issues actually arose while he was still promoting Jurassic World Dominion. In his own words:
At the beginning of March 2022 I flew to Los Angeles on matters Jurassic. About eight of the cast had an entire three-day weekend doing interviews, photo spreads for Vanity Fair and all of that stuff — publicity. It was a blast to catch up with my idiot friends and goof around as per. I noticed the glands seemed to be up in my neck region, but gave it very little thought. My agent had to kill a few photographs because my neck looked lumpy. Alan Grant doesn't have a lumpy neck, it seems.
I think most of us would probably be concerned if our own necks appeared “lumpy.” It’s a good thing the star didn’t wait too long before taking action. As the New Zealander couldn’t keep ignoring what was happening to his neck, he met with a doctor in Sydney, who named a potential cause that’s very different from blood cancer:
I said, These lumps don't seem to be going down, and I don't know why. He assured me that my lumpy glands were due to undetected COVID, and they'd be hanging around for a little while. I went back a week later when they were even bigger. This time he sent me in to hospital for some tests. Within a few days I was lying on a hospital bed having all kinds of chemicals draining into my system, killing everything aboard. For therapeutic reasons. To be cured of a thing I didn't know I had just a few days ago. Yep, suddenly things are different — this is some serious shit.
That’s why it’s always good to get a second and sometimes, even third one when it comes to serious health abnormalities. After a PET scan confirmed his blood cancer diagnosis, Sam Neill endured four rounds of chemotherapy. Because he received multiple rounds of radiation, he lost his hair. And in the process, he had to deal with the loss of his beard, which many consider to be one of his signature attributes. Neill described – in great detail – what it was like to ultimately part with his famous whiskers:
I've had a beard for quite some time, and this has meant I haven't seen my own face for many years. Fifteen years, I'm thinking. And here was my face, now entirely unadorned. This was no small shock. Time has not been kind to it in the meantime. I'm not just wrinkled in the space where there formerly resided a beard, I am positively wizened. Three or four strokes of my trimmer and I had aged twenty years.
More on Sam Neill
Sam Neill Reveals Why The Cast And Crew Of Jurassic Park Almost Died While Filming In Hawaii
Surely, that new look was initially surprising for the actor’s family and friends. Speaking of the latter, Jeff Goldblum opened up about his Jurassic Park co-star’s cancer diagnosis, saying that it was shared with him early on. Of course, Goldblum says his co-star now looks great and appears to be in great shape now.
Thankfully, after his cancer treatments and a little dancing, the Golden Globe nominee’s fourth PET scan determined his cancer was in full remission and has gone the past eight months without any symptoms. It’s for that reason that when Neill’s cancer diagnosis started to make headlines, he wasn’t happy that his health status was overshadowing the rest of his book as well as his upcoming projects. You can’t help but appreciate how candid the star has been about his cancer battle and its effects but, as he said, let’s also relish the fact that he’s feeling good and ready to work.
You can now purchase Sam Neill’s Did I Ever Tell You This?, which is dedicated to his doctor and the friends he made at St. Vincent’s Hospital. You can watch his latest performance returning as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic World Dominion on your Paramount+ subscription.