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The Bruno Lawrence Collection

Curated by the NZ On Screen team
10th February 2011

 The Bruno Lawrence Collection

The Bruno Lawrence Collection

 NZ On Screen team

Curated by the NZ On Screen team



Actor Bruno Lawrence rounds out a handful (Buck, Billy T, The Topps, Crumpy) of Kiwi icons who have achieved sufficient mana to be recognised by an abbreviated name. His charisma was key to ground-breaking films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Jack Nicholson reputedly had Bruno envy. This collection celebrates his inimitable performances and life.


The Bruno Lawrence Collection

 Smash Palace

Lawrence’s brilliant, brooding lead performance in this Kiwi cinema classic gained international acclaim. In the excerpt here Bruno’s Al Shaw, a Ruapehu ex-racing driver estranged from his wife, has gone bush with his daughter (Greer Robson), before being forced to return to town to face the music.

 The Quiet Earth

In Geoff Murphy's cult sci-fi feature a global energy project malfunction has left scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno) the last man on earth. The first half hour where Bruno is ‘man alone’, living out fantasies and helping himself to cars and clothes, is a tour de force performance — arguably NZ cinema’s finest.


It’s once upon a time in the south, in director Geoff Murphy’s ambitious, shotgun attempt at the great NZ (colonial) epic. In this excerpt, settler Bruno defends home and hearth (with Ilona Rodgers) against Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace), who is fed up with brutal land grabs, and on the rampage.

 Blerta Revisited

70s alternative Aotearoa icons Blerta (or The ‘Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition') encompassed foundation members of the NZ screen industry. This anarchic collection of comedic skits, short films, merry pranksters and musical interludes is culled from the Blerta archives.

 Goodbye Pork Pie

Geoff Murphy's second feature was a low-budget smash, definitively proving that New Zealanders could make blockbusters too. In the excerpt here, the Blondini Gang check in for an informal warrant of fitness in Wellington. Bruno plays a mechanic ('Baldini'). Sex, drugs and yellow mini mayhem ensue ... naturally.

 Numero Bruno

Numero Bruno is a warts and all biography of the widely popular actor, musician and counter-cultural hero; the man NZ Herald critic Peter Calder described as “local movies' most magnetic leading man”. Features interviews with family and friends, and liberal excerpts from Lawrence's film and musical work.

 Wild Man

Bruno channels his inner wild man from under a leopard skin in this pioneering cinema release. Led by Geoff Murphy, the Blerta ensemble relocated to the mud-soaked West Coast to create a colonial con men caper. Bruno and Ian Watkin run bets on staged fights; many silent movie-style pratfalls ensue.

 Magic Kiwis - Bruno Do That Thing

This edition from the Neil Roberts’ Kiwi heroes series is a fast-paced trip through Bruno’s first 50 years. It combines interviews with Bruno, clips from his many screen roles, and priceless material from the vault: eg. early acting parts, Edmund Hillary presenting Bruno with a Feltex Award.

 Tank Busters

The Italian Job meets cheap jugs and a student union gig in this early Geoff Murphy heist tale. The plot follows some Vic Uni students — short on exam fees and beer money — and their scheme to crack a campus safe ... the things kids got up to before internal assessment! Bruno plays the bongos and gets the girl.


Featuring classic curled lip sneers and exaggerated smoking action, this camp music video taonga stars Crocodiles drummer Bruno as a cruiser, leering from beneath a shady lamp post. Back in the studio, Fane Flaws spontaneously busts out a sideways shuffle. Lesson learned: never attempt to sell a slo-mo slap.

 Hurry Hurry Faster Faster

This madcap short about running late is an early product from the Acme schemers who were key in the Kiwi film renaissance. Geoff Murphy is a man in a hurry and Bruno is skin mag-reading psychiatrist 'Dr Brunowski'. It was originally screened with live musical performances by the Blerta crew.

 1990 Commonwealth Games promo - Join Together

This epic Lee Tamahori-directed promo for the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games imagines the stirrings of Games spirit in the mud of the Western Front, 1917. A Kiwi (Bruno) and an Aussie digger (Tony Barry) egg each other on (and more besides) in a race behind the lines to see who is the fastest.

 All Things Being Equal - 22 Sept 1978 Episode

Lawrence’s larrikin performance in this TV 70s gender politics satire was spotted by Roger Donaldson who cast Bruno in his breakout big screen lead role: Al Shaw in Smash Palace. Sparring with Ginette McDonald’s feminist, Bruno plays an unreformed motorhead who eats cornflakes with Lion Brown.

 It's Lizzie to those Close

In this tale of an English servant woman doing it hard down under, Lizzie (Sarah Peirse) finds herself trapped on a rundown Canterbury sheep farm alongside three men: one mean, one silent, and one simple-minded (Bruno). In a 1990 Magic Kiwis interview Bruno remembered the role was his favourite.

 Loose Enz - The Venus Touch

In this infamous Loose Enz edition, Bruno plays markedly against type as the dweeb patient of a sexologist (Grant Tilly), claiming to have a magic touch with women. The sex farce gained notoriety for high-profile newsreader Angela D’Audney going full frontal, then into a turquoise catsuit.

 One of those Blighters

This film about legendary Hawera novelist Ronald Hugh Morrieson (Came a Hot Friday, The Scarecrow), blends a semi-fictionalised tale of Morrieson’s mates reminiscing post-funeral, with recreations of his stories of drunkards and con artists. Amidst a cast of screen veterans, Bruno plays Morrieson.

 Inside Straight - Card Game (Episode Seven)

Set in Wellington’s underworld this series helped usher in a new era of urban Kiwi TV dramas, far from the backblocks. In this episode, card-shark Steve (Phillip Gordon) finds himself on the run from dodgy gamblers; meanwhile conman Nick Ward (Bruno) hits town and starts romancing Steve’s girlfriend.

 Making Utu

Gaylene Preston goes behind the scenes and observes Geoff Murphy's efforts at filming an ambitious 'puha western' set during the 1880s land wars. In the second clip the scene where Lawrence defends his homestead against Te Wheke is shown being set up (explosives, te reo practice) and filmed.

 Wild Horses

Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro to help wrangle wild horses. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues.

 Pukemanu - Pukemanu Welcomes You

This pioneering TV drama series’ portrait of a North Island timber town offered an archetypal screen image that Kiwis could relate to: rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey. This first episode sees a culture clash as a motorcycle gang (including a young Bruno) comes to town and causes trouble.


In a lawless fuel wars future, marauders roam the (Central Otago) wasteland looking for oil. Their malevolent leader Straker threatens his daughter Corlie; she’s rescued by Hunter and they harbour with eco-sensitive folk in Clearwater Commune ... but not for long. Bruno plays one of Straker’s henchmen.

 Cowboys of Culture

This is director Geoff Steven's personal perspective on the Kiwi cinema renaissance of the 70s. Raw and made with ‘she’ll be right’ optimism they might have been, but the films represented a vital new cultural force. The film features interviews with the major players, and clips from the movies.

 Kaleidoscope - Roger Donaldson in Hollywood

In the early 80s, director Roger Donaldson was part of a new generation of down under talent, making their mark overseas. In this Kaleidoscope interview Donaldson talks about success, failure, and his favourite actor: “Bruno’s at the top of my list ... the most talented individual I’ve worked with”.

NZ's leading leading man

NZ's leading leading man

Sunday Star Times film critic Barney McDonald analyses Bruno's charms: "the only New Zealand actor who consistently unsettles me". Read >

An enduring symbol of NZ cinema

An enduring symbol of NZ cinema

Screenwriter Keith Aberdein reflects: "without him I doubt that there would be that rather vague thing we call the New Zealand film industry." Read >

"the man, the artist, the naughty, needy boy, the bloody genius ..."

Steve La Hood candidly muses on the experience of filming his acclaimed biography of the contradictory character that was ‘Bruno’. Read >

Over the ditch and on the Frontline

Over the ditch and on the Frontline

Lawrence’s career also includes many Ocker roles, most famously in Frontline. Check out Australian Screen titles tagged with ‘Bruno’. Watch >

Where's Bruno?

Where's Bruno?

The prolific, multi-talented Mr Lawrence took on roles from Crocodiles' drummer to last man on earth. Have we missed any classic Bruno? Suggest a title >