Cliff Curtis alternates a busy diet of acting in the United States (where he's forged a reputation as the actor to call on, for roles of varied ethnicity) with smaller scale New Zealand projects — including co-producing Taika Waititi smash Boy. His CV of Kiwi classics includes playing Pai's father in Whale Rider, Uncle Bully on Once Were Warriors, and bipolar chess champion Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse

I take the responsibility of playing another ethnicity very, very seriously, and I promise myself and those people that I will represent them with as much dignity and integrity as I can muster … I don’t want to make a fool of that cultural heritage. I represent them as I would represent my own. Cliff Curtis, in a 20 May 2014 interview with Slate website
Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Risen

2016, As: Yeshua

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Last Knights

2015, As: Lieutenant Cortez

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Fear The Walking Dead

2015 - 2016, As: Travis

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Once Were Warriors - Where are They Now

2014, Subject

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Gang Related

2014, As: Javier Acosta

The dark horse key.jpg.540x405

The Dark Horse

2014, As: Genesis Potini, Executive Producer - Film

The Dark Horse is the story of a Māori ex-speed chess champ who must “overcome prejudice and violence in the battle to save his struggling chess club, his family and ultimately, himself”. Genesis Potini has a bi-polar disorder; his nephew Mana (Boy’s James Rolleston) faces being pressed into a gang. A near unrecognisable Cliff Curtis won international acclaim as Potini. James Napier Robertson's acclaimed second feature was picked to opened the 2014 Auckland and Wellington Film Festival, and scored six Moa awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Ahi Ka - The Long Burning Fires of Occupation

2014, Executive Producer

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Journey to Sundance

2014, Subject

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Greencard Warriors

2013, Executive Producer

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Missing (US TV series)

2012, Agent Dax Miller

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Body of Proof

2012, Agent Derek Ames

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Saving Grace - Te Whakarauora Tangata

2011, Co-Producer , Subject

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Colombiana

2011, As: Emilio Restrepo

Boy key image.jpg.540x405

Boy

2010, Producer - Film

Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon become the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the 2016 arrival of Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Trauma

2009, As: Reuben Palchuck

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

10,000 Years

2008, As: Tic'Tic

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Sunshine

2007, As: Searle

Taua key image.jpg.540x405

Taua - War Party

2007, Executive Producer - Short Film

A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven by their brutally insistent chief towards safety. Two water-boys are crouched in the bow. One of them risks a bold act of compassion — towards the trophy prisoner tied to the stern. The impressively-produced portage has echoes of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, but the story is palpably Māori. Directed by Tearepa Kahi, Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival, and was selected for Berlin, Edinburgh, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand fests.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Coffee and Allah

2007, Executive Producer

Eagle vs shark key title.jpg.540x405

Eagle vs Shark

2007, Producer - Film

Taika (Boy) Waititi's first feature is an offbeat comedy about two lonely misfits and their attempts to find love. Lily (Loren Taylor) is a shy fast-food cashier with a crush on clueless gaming geek Jarrod (Conchord Jemaine Clement). When Lily crashes Jarrod's fancy dress party wearing a shark costume and impresses the self-styled ‘Eagle Lord' with her gaming prowess — excerpted here — she gets her man. But their budding romance is sorely tested by Jarrod's obsession with a childhood nemesis. Empire called the film, "a comic delight destined for cult adoration."

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Hawaikii

2006, Executive Producer

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Shadow over the Sun

2006, Executive Producer

Fat freddys drop based on a true story key image.jpg.540x405

Fat Freddy's Drop - Based on a True Story

2006, Subject - Television

This documentary follows the "seven headed soul monster direct from the shores of Wellington" — Fat Freddys Drop — as they rumble their dub-rich sound through Europe like a Houghton Bay roller. Touring to showcase album Based on a True Story, it features rehearsals and performances, eating Italian kai moana, playing concrete ping pong in Berlin, and (in the fifth clip) a jam with Cliff Curtis. Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe lauds the 'fullas' and Mu explains whanau to German journos. True Story sold 120,000+ copies and dominated the 2005 New Zealand Music Awards.  

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

The Fountain

2006, As: Captain Ariel

Frontseat   who can play maori  key.jpg.540x405

Frontseat - Who Can Play Māori

2006, Subject - Television

This item from arts show Frontseat asks whether it is right for actors to portray other races than their own. Samoan Kiwi David Fane — who won both fans and criticism, after voicing Jeff da Māori on bro'Town — argues that playing another ethnicity is only an issue when the actor does a bad job. Actor Rachel House (Whale Rider) raises wider issues of indigenous people telling their own stories; and Cliff Curtis, known for a wide range of ethnicities on screen, says he needs to be just as careful playing Māori of other iwi, as when he is playing other races.

The speaker key image.jpg.540x405

The Speaker

2005, Executive Producer - Short Film

A graffiti artist gets sprung by the cops while tagging, but his younger brother ends up being the fall-guy and at the receiving end of long arm of the law. The eponymous hero heads into the Tamaki night, and with spray can and marker signs his views on politics (including on one of the infamous Iwi/Kiwi billboards from the 2005 National Party campaign), but ultimately he’ll need more than words to repay his brother. Co-written with Savage, the film was actor Tearepa Kahi’s directing debut; it won selection to Berlin and Clermont Ferrand Film Festivals.

The tem show series key imagea.jpg.540x405

The Tem Show

2005, Subject - Television

In this 2005 series Once Were Warriors star Temuera Morrison interviews and hangs with his entertainment whānau, at home and in Hollywood. Celebs featured including Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Ioan Gruffudd, Martin Henderson, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Cliff Curtis. A notable edition was a 'revenge of the bros' episode that saw Tem korero with Kiwis involved in the Sydney-shot Star Wars chapters; he also meets George Lucas and gets cloned at Skywalker Ranch. This was Prime TV's first publicly funded local programme, and replayed on Māori Television.

River queen key title.jpg.540x405

River Queen

2005, As: Wiremu - Film

Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows an Irishwoman in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah (Samantha Morton) has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Years later the boy is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, aided by warrior Wiremu (Cliff Curtis). When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees Sarah encountering charismatic chief Te Kai Po (Temuera Morrison).

Bro town creators shot  maka .jpg.540x405

bro'Town

2004, 2007, As: Cliff Curtis - Television

This animated TV comedy series is a modern day fairytale following the adventures of five kids growing up in one of Auckland's grungier suburbs. With a fearless, un-PC wit and Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos, it managed to be primetime and family-friendly. The popular show was made by Firehorse Films, and developed from the brazen and poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. Screening on TV3 for five series it won Best Comedy at the NZ Screen Awards three years running and a Qantas Award for Ant Sang's production design. "Morningside for life!"

Fracture key title.jpg.540x405

Fracture

2004, As: Detective Franklin - Film

Solo mum Leeanne Rosser (Kate Elliott) is rejected by her Christian mother. She tries to stay close to her brother Brent, unaware of his secret life as a thief. One day a burglary goes wrong, and a woman is badly injured. The incident causes repercussions for all the members of the two families, and relationships begin to fracture. Based on Maurice Gee novel Crime Story, Fracture's release was delayed by the collapse of director Larry Parr's production company Kahukura in 2002. The Press called Fracture "competent, confident and complex".

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Heinous Crime

2004, As: Pizza delivery man

Spooked key.jpg.540x405

Spooked

2004, As: Mort Whitman - Film

Loosely based on the case of a real-life computer dealer who acquired international bank records and later died mysteriously on Auckland Harbour Bridge, Spooked marked Geoff Murphy’s first local feature in 15 years (after a Hollywood foray). Everyman Kevin (Christopher Hobbs) is caught up in a barrage of intimidation after buying some used computer equipment and unwittingly receiving corporate secrets; Mort (Cliff Curtis) is the journalist investigating his case. The cast features rare cameos by director Vincent Ward and Goodbye Pork Pie star Kelly Johnson.

Tama tu key image.jpg.540x405

Tama Tū

2004, Producer - Short Film

Six Māori Battalion soldiers camped in Italian ruins wait for night to fall. In the silence, the bros-in-arms distract themselves with jokes. A tohu (sign) brings them back to reality, and they gather to say a karakia before returning to the fray. Director Taika Waititi describes the soldiers as young men with "a special bond, strengthened by their character, their culture and each other." Shot in the rubble of the old Wellington Hospital, Tama Tū won international acclaim. Invited to over 40 international festivals, its many awards included honourable mentions at Sundance and Berlin.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

The Audition (short film)

2002, As: Actor

Whale rider key title.jpg.540x405

Whale Rider

2002, As: Porourangi - Film

Set at the East Coast town of Whāngārā, Whale Rider tells the tale of a young Māori girl, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who challenges tradition and embraces the past in order to find the strength to lead her people forward. Directed and written by Niki Caro, the film is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider. Coupling a specific sense of place and culture with a universal coming-of-age story, Whale Rider met with sizeable success worldwide, winning audience choice awards at Sundance and Toronto.

Mataku series key image.jpg.540x405

Mataku

2002, Director - Television

Described as a "Māori Twilight Zone", Mataku was a series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori experience with the "unexplained". Two South Pacific Pictures-produced series screened on TV3; a later series screened on TV One in 2005. Each episode was introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style. The bi-lingual series was a strong international and domestic success; producer Carey Carter: "Our people are very spiritual ... and here we are ... turning it into stories so that the rest of the world can get a glimpse of that aspect of our culture."

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Training Day

2001, As: Smiley

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Blow

2001, Pablo Escobar

The truth about maori key image.jpg.540x405

The Truth about Māori

2000, Subject - Television

Māori of different ages and backgrounds talk frankly about their culture and how they feel they are perceived in this Inside New Zealand doco. Contributors include Pio Terei, Brian Tamaki, Carol Hirschfeld, Leilani Joyce and Tau Henare (who is unapologetic about his Dirty Dogs). By turns passionate, pointed and humorous, they discuss issues ranging from sex and food to teen pregnancy and prejudice. We also learn that rotten corn is not universally loved, staunchness is at best a dubious asset and not all Māori are blessed with singing ability. The Truth About Maori

Jubilee key image.jpg.540x405

Jubilee

2000, As: Billy Williams - Film

Billy Williams (Cliff Curtis) is enthusiastic and likable, but a bit hopeless. When the driving force behind the Waimatua School 75th Jubilee is killed in an accident, Billy takes over - determined to prove himself. Meanwhile, the arrival of ex-international rugby player Max Seddon (Kevin Smith) forces his wife Pauline (Theresa Healey) to question the choices she has made in her life. This affectionate comedy about small-town NZ life was the first feature directed by actor Michael Hurst, most well-known for his role on the TV series Hercules.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Three Kings

1999, As: Amir Abdulah

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Virus

1999, As: Hiko

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Deep Rising

1998, As: Mamooli

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Six Days Seven Nights

1998, As: Kip

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

The Chosen

1998, As: Father Tahere

The game of our lives key image.jpg.540x405

The Game of Our Lives

1996, Readings - Television

This four-part series from 1996 presents the game of rugby as a mirror for New Zealand social history. Written by Finlay Macdonald, it sets out to explain how rugby became such an intrinsic part of New Zealand's identity. Each episode visits iconic paddocks (from schools to stadiums) and players (from amateurs Nepia, Meads, and Shelford, to professional star Lomu); and observers muse on the influence of the inflated pig's bladder on Kiwi culture, including historian Jock Phillips, writer Ian Cross and journalist TP Mclean.

City life key title.jpg.540x405

City Life

1996 - 1998, As: Daniel Freeman - Television

City Life follows a tight-knit group of apartment-dwelling twenty-somethings (lawyers, bartenders, drug dealers, art dealers, et al) on the emotional merry-go-round of urban living. Created by James Griffin, the television series was an effort to create popular drama relevant to contemporary Auckland city life and to appeal to a Gen X demographic – to inject Melrose Place into Mt Eden. A bevy of Kiwi acting talent drink, dramatise and prevaricate to a soundtrack of contemporary NZ pop.

Chicken key image.jpg.540x405

Chicken

1996, As: Zeke - Film

After a run of hit short films involving creatures on the run, Chicken marked the feature debut of director Grant Lahood. Brit Bryan Marshall stars as Dwight, a fading pop star who fakes his own death as a career move. Meanwhile a crazed fowl rights-activist (Cliff Curtis), angered at Dwight's promotions for fried chicken, plots revenge. Though the romantic black comedy tanked at the box office, the story and performances did receive some positive notice with Metro reviewer Rick Bryant finding it "very funny ... very enjoyable".

City life episode 1 key image.jpg.540x405

City Life - First Episode

1996, As: Daniel Freeman - Television

City Life screened from 1996 to 1998 and made a direct appeal to New Zealand's Gen X apartment-dwelling demographic. Following the lives of a tight-knit group of friends, and featuring racy shots of Auckland's K-Road and nightlife set to contemporary NZ pop music, City Life was NZ's answer to Melrose Place. In this excerpt from the first episode, the friends are thrown into conflict when one of their own (played by Kevin Smith) decides to marry outside the circle. Complications ensue when Smith shares a brief, but notorious, screen kiss with Charles Mesure.

The game of our lives home and away key image.jpg.540x405

The Game of Our Lives - Home and Away

1996, Readings - Television

This four-part series explores New Zealand social history through rugby, from the first rugby club in 1870 to the 1995 World Cup. In this episode commentators muse on the roots of rugby in a settler society, in "a man's country". Rugby's unique connection with Māori, from Tom Ellison and the Natives’ tour to a Te Aute College haka, is explored; as well as the national identity-defining 1905 Originals’ tour, and the relationship between footy and the battlefield. As the Finlay Macdonald-penned narration reflects: “Maybe it's just a game, but it's the game of our lives”.

Mananui key title.jpg.540x405

Mananui

1995, As: Mana - Short Film

"Maybe if we looked after our living as well as we do the dead, he'd still be here." After returning to his Marae from the city, Mana (Cliff Curtis) finds himself caught up in arrangements for a tangi. But when another local commits suicide, Mana finds himself caught between traditional values and his own sense of right. Meanwhile in the forest, it seems that other powers may have the final word. Also featuring George Henare; directed and written by Poata Eruera.

Overnight key title.jpg.540x405

Overnight

1995, As: Jim - Television

In this award-winning Montana Sunday Theatre drama, Cliff Curtis plays Jim, a grungy rocker who can’t (and doesn’t want to) commit to a straight life with his misguidedly hopeful girlfriend Sina (Sarah Smuts-Kennedy). A night of emotional turmoil in the city ensues as Sina does her best to avoid the reality of her situation (as well as home invasion and Jim’s dodgy manager). Fiona Samuel's darkly funny script and top-notch casting underpin this look at the not-so-delicate nature of relationships amongst a group of Generation X Aucklanders.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Hercules in the Underworld (TV movie)

1994, As: Nessus

11139.key.jpg.540x405

Greenstone

1994, Actor - Music video

Released as the follow-up to Emma Paki’s acclaimed debut (‘System Virtue’) this song was produced by Neil Finn. It made it to five on the local charts. Prolific music video director Kerry Brown (Four Seasons in One Day, AEIOU) helms the redemption story. Paki — in full-colour and fern headdress — sings about the power of pounamu, while actor Cliff Curtis (Once Were Warriors, Fear the Living Dead) plays a roadie adrift in the city in black and white. When things go awry on K Road outside McDonalds, Curtis heads to the bush for spiritual succour from Paki in a waterfall.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Ngā Puna: Kahu and Maia

1994, Actor

Once were warriors key title.jpg.540x405

Once Were Warriors

1994, As: Bully - Film

Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.

Desperate remedies key title.jpg.540x405

Desperate Remedies

1993, As: Fraser - Film

Desperate Remedies is high-camp Cannes-selected melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells, set in an imaginary 19th-century town called Hope. ‘Draper of distinction' Dorothea Brooks is desperate to save her sister Rose from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to marry Rose. Lawrence has his eyes on Dorothea however, and he has competition from malevolent politician Poyser (who has made her an attractive offer), as well as Brooks' sultry lover. Sumptuous and ripe, The Piano this definitely ain't!

The piano key image.jpg.540x405

The Piano

1993, As: Mana - Film

Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Undercover key.jpg.540x405

Undercover

1991, As: Zip - Television

This 1991 telefilm follows young undercover cop Tony (William Brandt) who gets in too deep when infiltrating a heroin ring in the underbelly of Wellington’s music and pub scene. The Kiwi noir tale was inspired by real-life undercover policeman Wayne Haussman, who was convicted of drug trafficking. Directed by Yvonne Mackay (The Silent One), it was made as a pilot for a series that never eventuated. At the 1993 NZ Film and Television Awards Undercover won Best TV Drama; Jennifer Ludlam was awarded for her role as Tony's ex-prostitute girlfriend. Cliff Curtis plays a musician.

Title.jpg.118x104 5c2911d8f5486bd3a0d8b530d7f7865c462e900efa9ae771f0979f1985e04c39

Safer Sex

1989, Actor