Sam Neill is “still a little hurt” that Holly Hunter wanted him to use a rubber axe for a pivotal scene in The Piano.
Jane Campion’s 1993 period drama tells the story of a mute Scottish woman, played by Hunter, who relocates to New Zealand with her daughter after being sold into marriage with Neill’s character Alisdair Stewart.
Recalling the shoot in his upcoming memoir Did I Ever Tell You This?, Neill admitted that he is “still a little hurt” that Hunter asked for him to use a rubber axe for the climactic scene in which Alisdair cuts off one of Ada’s fingers to stop her playing the piano.
“I have to confess I’m still a little hurt that she insisted that my axe be swapped for a rubber replica. I mean, for f**k’s sake! Did she really think that I would get carried away and actually cut off her finger?” he wrote, reports IndieWire. “I chuckle as I write this. I’m an actor, not a beast, for heaven’s sake.”
Neill also revealed the shoot was a lonely experience because Hunter kept her distance from him off-screen to mirror their characters’ cold relationship on-screen.
“Playing our scenes together was disturbing for me. I never knew whether it was Holly looking at Sam, or Ada looking at Stewart. The lines between life and fiction were blurred and it was not in any way comfortable,” he recounted.
“It was a curiously solitary acting experience for me. Happily, Jane is a very caring director for her cast, and was always there to hug me when I was at my lowest.”
The Piano went on to be nominated for eight Oscars, with wins for Hunter, their young co-star Anna Paquin and Campion’s screenplay.
While Neill was not nominated, he is proud of being involved with “an important feminist film” and “an important New Zealand film”.
“It’s a film that will always have a place in cinema history. And I served in it,” he stated.
– Cover Media