For the most part, Steven Spielberg’s classic Jurassic Park isn’t a movie that requires or features a great deal of accent work. Most of the ensemble play characters that mirror their own nationalities, with the notable exception of English actor and filmmaker Richard Attenborough as Scottish businessman and doomed theme park operator John Hammond, as well as whatever Sam Neill is doing anytime Alan Grant opens his mouth.
The star was born in Northern Ireland to an English mother and New Zealander father, with the family moving back to his old man’s home turf when he was a child. When he first boarded the cast of Jurassic Park, it was established that Alan Grant would be an American, something Neill brought to his performance from the first day of shooting.
However, in a new interview as part of the Jurassic Park episode from Netflix docuseries The Movies That Made Us, the 73 year-old revealed that several days into production Spielberg asked him to drop the dialect and aim for somewhere between American and Kiwi, which is why Grant’s accent is all over the place and varies from scene to scene, with Neill admitting it had people questioning his abilities to master anything that wasn’t his native tongue.
“Steven comes up to me and says, ‘You know, Sam, that American accent you’re doing, why don’t we just forget it? Just do your own voice’. I said, ‘Steven, that’s great! I will!’. And then on day three, he came up to me and he said, ‘You know that voice you’re using, can we sort of go halfway?’. I’ve had 30 years of people going, ‘Sam Neill’s American accent isn’t very good’.”
It’s a minor thing, and it hardly derails the movie like some of the worst accents in the history of cinema have been known to do, but Neill just wants to get it out there that he’s not terrible at pretending to be American, he was just following the orders given to him on Jurassic Park by one of the industry’s most famed directors, which went on to become the highest-grossing movie in history.