Sam Neill relives one of the “hardest” scenes he’s ever had to shoot.
Neill played Major Campbell in “Peaky Blinders” who rapes Aunt Polly, played by actress Helen McCrory. “Peaky Blinders” was created by showrunner Steven Knight, who is now preparing to write the latest “Star Wars” movie and the “Vertigo” remake.
“Easily the hardest bed scene I’ve ever done was in ‘Peaky Blinders.’ My character, the hideous Major Campbell, rapes Aunt Polly, played by Helen McCrory. It’s deeply unsettling and I was worried about how we were going to move forward,” Neill wrote in his forthcoming memoir.Have I ever told you that?“
Neill continued: “First of all, it was a situation, a crime scene, that was completely beyond my imagination… By the time we shot that, I knew (co-star) Helen very well. We found the same things funny, I had a deep respect for him and I think he felt the same way about me. We spent an entire morning shooting this horrible, horrible scene.”
Fortunately, Neill and McCrory’s real-life friendship made the rape scene in Season 2, Episode 5 easier to film.
“As it turned out, we did very well. The more disgusting the behavior, the merrier,” Neill wrote. “The worse I was, the more we laughed. We had the confidence that allowed us to go to extremes. Helen McCrory was one of the greatest people I have ever worked with. She’s a great actress and a great person.”
Neill has been involved in portraying “bad guys” on screen, including “Twin Peaks” among other TV shows.
“I’ve never been afraid to play bad people. I think they are fun. And you know, every bad guy has his reasons. They were injured. Something happened to them,” Neill said. “When I got to play Major Campbell in ‘Peaky Blinders’, I imagined him growing up as an only child in some grim Ulster rectory, a motherless boy, beaten daily by a brutal man in a dog collar.
The series of attacks also shed light on Neill’s views on the need for intimacy coordinators on set.
“Nowadays, when it comes to bed scenes, and I’ve done a few, it’s accepted in the production to have someone on set as an intimacy consultant. This is so that no one feels uncomfortable,” Neill wrote.
The ‘Jurassic Park’ actor added: ‘I must sound like a dinosaur, but after more than forty years I can put my hand on my heart and say that I am certain that none of us, me or anyone else in bed, have ever also felt uncomfortable in a bed scene. It was just a matter of being a civilized person, making sure you were friends and making the most of the day. These are the most embarrassing things, but you never know, they might even be fun; and I have had such amusing times when we are both in stitches, crippled with laughter. I always make sure that whoever I’m playing with is okay with the crew around us, what kind of direction we’re getting and so on. We cooperate. The whole business is humiliating for everyone, and the more you can take the curse out of it with humor, the better.
Neill’s late “Peaky Blinders” co-star McCrory, who died in 2021, credited Neill for taking on such a challenging scene.
“He was very anxious to do it, very volatile,” McCrory said Belfast Telegraph in 2016, noting that it’s “much harder” to play the rapist than the victim. “It’s about guilt. Obviously, it’s all a pretence, but it’s much more difficult to play the bastard, the violent animal. No one looks at you and says, “How could you allow yourself to be raped?” No one allows themselves to be raped, but how do you allow yourself to be raped? That is the real question.”
McCrory added that playing a rapist on screen can also affect his career: “People stare at you on the tube. They don’t remember why they want to beat him to death, but they remember that they do.
In 2019, he stated that since the episode aired, women have approached him to share their own stories of assault. saying“It’s a huge responsibility because viewers have been watching these characters for a long time, so I’m very aware of that responsibility.”
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