Sam Neill. (Photo: Ross Coffey)

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) will next month bestow actor Sam Neill with its highest honour, the Longford Lyell Award.

First presented in 1968, the award honours Australian film pioneer Raymond Longford and his partner in filmmaking and life, Lottie Lyell. It recognises a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Australia’s screen environment and culture.

Neill joins previous recipients such as Peter Weir, Fred Schepisi, Jan Chapman, David Stratton, Don McAlpine, Al Clark, Jacki Weaver, Andrew Knight, Cate Blanchett, Phillip Noyce and most recently, Bryan Brown.

“I am very thrilled by this honour indeed,” said Neill.  “And very surprised! Let me check just in case they’ve made a mistake…”

Neill made his feature debut in Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs in 1979, which led to a breakthrough role in Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career opposite Judy Davis. That film launched him internationally, playing the lead in 1981’s The Final Conflict, and going on to receive acclaim in roles such as TV mini series Reilly: Ace of Spies, Fred Scheipsi films Plenty and Evil Angels, Jane Campion’s The Piano ,and Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

Today, the actor has over 130 film and television performance credits to his name, and has earned three Golden Globe and two Emmy Award nominations.

His recent credits include Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok, Sweet Country, Ride Like a Girl, Palm Beach and the upcoming RAMS.

“On behalf of AFI | AACTA, it is a pleasure to honour Sam alongside so many of Australia’s great men and women of screen. From Australian and New Zealand cult classics to international blockbusters and his work in television, his career is incredibly versatile and far-reaching. As a performer, his empathy for a character and eye for a great story is unparalleled. Throughout his worldwide success, Sam continues to play an active part in the Australian film industry,” said AFI | AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella.

“With seven AFI | AACTA Award nominations under his belt, and his AFI Award win for his memorable performance of Death in Brunswick, we look forward to seeing Sam honoured at the 2019 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel Ceremony in December.”

Neill will be presented with the award at AACTA Ceremony, held December 4 in Sydney. AACTA announced today that the event will be hosted by Shane Jacobson.

“I absolutely love award shows, I do, and to host a show recognising colleagues and friends who create such incredible work and to be on stage with actors who I’m just a flat out fan of, well what a thrill it is to be part of the AACTA’s this year,’’ Jacobson said.

Jacobson will be joined by a line-up that includes Asher Keddie, Rodger Corser, Joel Creasey, Manu Feildel, Essie Davis, Alex Dimitriades, Damon Gameau, Rachel Griffiths, Nazeem Hussain, Angie Kent, Danielle Cormack, Ewen Leslie, Darren McMullen, Dr. George Miller, Tim Minchin, Pia Miranda, Julia Morris, Todd Sampson, Miranda Tapsell and Sigrid Thornton. The event will also include a performance by Jessica Mauboy.

The Industry Luncheon on December 2, which celebrates screen craft excellence, will be hosted by Mel Buttle and Matt Okine.

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