SA's Neil Sandilands to star opposite Tom Hanks in new western flick: 'He wrote me a note. He is a classy guy'

2020-03-31 07:17
Neil Sandilands

Although he has landed reoccurring roles on The CW series The 100 and The Flash, ask any South African about Neil Sandilands, and they'll undoubtedly bring up the loveable Bart from the Hillside Deli, and his pet doves Breëbors en Bekkie. 

Known for his versatility in filmmaking and extensive TV work, Neil is back on home soil, and talks to Channel24 about what he misses most about South Africa, and his new movie role opposite Tom Hanks. 

Neil, who relocated to the United States in 2011, says being back in South Africa is like "returning to centre." He explains, saying: "It's where I hail from, and where the generations before me came from. It's really good to reconnect on an elementary level, and to check in with my family and curated relationships."

When asked what he misses most about his home country, Neil replies assuredly: "You pretty much take yourself wherever you go, and there are great things about American society, and there are great things about South African society."

But if he had narrow it down, it would be his "longstanding, nurtured and curated relationships with my friends." He says: "I live through my relationships to and with other people." 

"I also have a great Afrikaans bias. And I say so unashamedly. Ek is so Afrikaans soos kan kom," he laughs. (I'm as Afrikaans as they come.) 

The 44-year-old who joined the main cast of The CW superhero drama The Flash as Clifford DeVoe (The Thinker) in 2017, adds: "I miss communicating in my mother tongue. There is a shared understanding and a shared sense of humour. There's a certain micro-expression within Afrikaans and there is a definite 'longing.'"

Although he returned home to take care of family matters, he is also currently in negotiations regarding a movie and series. 

But due to the on-going coronavirus threats, discussions have been tabled. About the pandemic, and the impact it has had and the world, Neil says: "It gives us a little bit of time for some healthy reflection, a bit of psychological intervention and perhaps going back and looking at the ontology of things. Asking some serious questions about, you know, what is social contract? What do we want our society to look like?"

The actor, who often thinks about the nature of ideas and concepts, adds: "Maybe it's time for some more philosophical questions, you know. I'm not excited about the situation, but I find that, like I said, from an anthropological, sociological, philosophical, psychological point of view, we are living in a very interesting time."

While in Johannesburg, Neil also returned the set of 7de Laan, at Sasani Studios, where he portrayed the role of Bart Kruger for seven years.

About his impromptu set visit, he says: "It was lovely, and things have changed dramatically, but that is the nature of things, the universe is always in influx. I am in "Amor fati," which is a Latin phrase that can be translated as 'love of fate' or 'love of one's fate'."

Despite his stint on 7de Laan being only a small part of his career, which spans over three decades, Neil says: "I feel blessed to have been part of that." 

In 2015, Neil secured a guest stint on the hit FX series The Americans, and in the following years secured a recurring role on The 100, as well as a guest role in the long-running CBS series NCIS

About the abundant experience, he says: "They're all tremendous. Once again, I feel blessed that I have been able to partake in those productions. I've always challenged myself with going to the most remote vestiges of human psychology, geographically."

Grant Gustin who plays The Flash has called Neil is one of the best actors he's worked with, saying: "This dude's a legend." 

Neil says: "The word that comes to mind with all of this is just simply gratitude."

His most recent body of work is as "Uncle Wilhelm Leonberger" opposite Tom Hanks in News of the World.

It is scheduled to be released on December 25, 2020, by Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

Telling Channel24 more about the movie, Neil says: "The movie stars Tom Hanks, who doesn't need my introduction, and a phenomenal young actress Helena Zengel, as the young female lead. I'm the next of kin to Helena's character and a play a farmer named, Wilhelm Leonberger."

"I had the opportunity to be on set with Paul Greengrass and what a gentleman. Tom as well, he was congenial and professional. We shot that in Santa Fe, New Mexico and to me it was a delightful experience. We also got snowed in, so I stayed a little longer than anticipated until we got it in the can," he continues.

Robert Brustein, critic, writes: "In the way he instantly segues from calm to rage, Sandilands reminds one of all those inarticulate movie heroes of the fifties, Ben Gazzara, James Dean, Marlon Brando in The Wild One."

Neil goes on to say: "There was no hysteria; it was precise, economical and really calm and collected, the best word to describe the experience would be held. And I'm proud to have been part of that." 

Neil describes what it was like working with Tom, saying: "If you ask anyone about Tom Hanks, 99.9% of people would say that he is wolesome and warm, and my estimation he is that too. He is completely generous, such a gentleman, open and receptive."

The pair also shared a special moment, which Neil looks back on fondly: "After the wrap, he was kind enough to write a note, and he gave me a couple of gifts. I, of course, returned the favour. So, we had that exchange, but he is just a classy, classy guy."  

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