Actor Temuera Morrison was acting on screen at the age of 11. Two decades later he won Kiwi television immortality on the receiving end of a line in Shortland Street, then rave reviews as the abusive husband in Once Were Warriors. Since reprising his Warriors role in the well-regarded 1999 sequel, Morrison has gone on to appear in River Queen, Crooked Earth, Mt Zion and the Star Wars series. Read the full biography
… a leading actor as elemental, charismatic and brutal as the young Marlon Brando; he has instinctive star power. The Seattle Journal, on Morrison's Once Were Warriors performance.
This iconic serial drama is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff and patients of Shortland Street Hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, it screens five nights a week on TV2. The show has screened internationally, and is by far New Zealand's longest running TV drama (though not the first ‘soap’ — that honour goes to Close to Home, which played twice a week from 1975 - 1983). Characters and lines from Shortland Street have entered the culture, most famously “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!”, which features in this first episode.
In the final episode of their award-winning comedy series, Bill and Ben offend rugby league stars Monty Betham and Awen Guttenbiel (with a nod to American Beauty) and actor Karl Urban. The show's closing references the controversial finale of The Sopranos (complete with mocking soundtrack) and there are cameos from the Mad Butcher and Temuera Morrison (but not Jake The Muss). 'Sporting Hell' takes cues from Silence of the Lambs (and inflicts the usual eye watering amount of pain) and a unique interpretation of cross training enrages a passing TV producer.
Once Were Warriors was an internationally successful film that honestly opened the eyes of cinema goers to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's visceral and hard hitting depiction of gang and domestic violence amongst an urban Māori whānau, was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel by screenwriter Riwia Brown. Produced by Robin Scholes, the film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Mus and Beth Heke. It is NZ most watched local release (besting Boy by bums on seats measure).
Nina has emigrated to New Zealand from wartime Croatia. When she falls in love with (and gets pregnant to) a Māori man, and marries a Chinese man for money, domineering Father Ivan is furious. Director Gregor Nicholas had attracted acclaim for his short film Avondale Dogs and Broken English was his anticipated second feature. It is notable for being one of the few films in which NZ's dominant Pākehā culture hardly features. Broken screened internationally, won prizes at festivals, and was one of the highest grossing NZ films of the 1990s.
More than just a sequel to Once Were Warriors, this film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. One day, as he downs his latest opponent, he's unaware that his son has died in a gang fight. Scripted by Alan Duff, directed by Ian Mune, the film was the 2nd-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Warriors). It scooped the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
In this feature film Australian Idol winner and X-Factor judge Stan Walker makes his acting debut as aspiring singer Turei. Part of a whānau of Māori potato pickers from Pukekohe, he has to choose between duty to family (Temuera Morrison is patriarch 'Papa') and letting the music play. Turei's dilemma takes place amidst reggae star Bob Marley's 1979 tour to Aotearoa, and a chance for him to win a supporting slot at Marley's Western Springs concert. Mt Zion is director Tearepa Kahi's first feature, after a suite of successful short films (Taua, The Speaker).
In 2007 Willie Apiata, of the NZ Army's elite SAS unit, was awarded the Victoria Cross for carrying a wounded soldier to safety while under fire in Afghanistan. This documentary had exclusive access to Corporal Apiata, from the moment he was told about the VC to his decision a few weeks later to gift the medal to the nation. The shy soldier struggles to deal with his sudden celebrity, and military bosses have to cope with the dual demand of handling media interest in the VC win while still keeping the work of the SAS relatively secret.
When his father dies, Will Bastion (Temuera Morrison) returns home after an absence of 20 years. Tradition dictates that he takes on the mantle of tribal chief, but he's not interested. His brother, Kahu, seizes the opportunity, but he's a drug-dealing thug with radical ideas. When Will sees the impact of Kahu's actions, he must choose whether to act. Directedby Sam Pillsbury as a contemporary western, Crooked Earth was his first New Zealand film since 1987's Starlight Hotel. Variety called it "handsomely mounted and compelling".
This lauded documentary revisits the subject of a film Vincent Ward made in 1978, aged 21. That film, In Spring One Plants Alone, told the story of 80-year-old Puhi, who lived with her schizophrenic son in the isolated Urewera. The follow-up — part detective doco, part historical re-enactment — focuses on Puhi's life. She married the son of Māori prophet Rua Kenana, had 14 children, and after a run of tragedies, believed herself to be cursed. The excerpt goes “way out there in the bush” to the Maungapohatu community where Rua, “made the city of God on Earth”.
Iconic serial drama Shortland Street is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients of the eponymous hospital. This 1994 cliffhanger episode, written by Rachel Lang, features the wedding between receptionist Kirsty and muffin man Lionel. But will hunky Stuart be able to deny his love for Kirsty? Countless familiar characters appear; and three actors who have since launched Hollywood careers — Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson, and Marton Csokas — as Dr Ropata, Stuart Neilson, and Leonard Dodds respectively.
Vincent Ward's fifth feature follows Irishwoman Sarah in 1860s New Zealand, as Māori tribes resist the occupation of their land by the British. Sarah has had an affair with a Māori and borne his child. Her lover dies, and seven years later the child is kidnapped by his grandfather, a powerful tribal leader. Sarah embarks on a search for her child, unsure whether he is alive. When she finds him, both mother and son must decide to which culture they belong. This excerpt from the notoriously ambitious film sees the duo trapped amidst a brutal trench battle.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
When she made Mauri, Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to direct, write and produce a feature film. Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and a changing way of life in a dwindling East Coast town. As with Barry Barclay's Ngati, Mauri played a key role in the bourgeoning Māori screen industry; the production team numbered 33 Māori and 20 Pākehā, including interns from Hawkes Bay wānanga. NZ art icon Ralph Hotere helmed the production design; Māori activist Eva Rickard played kuia Kara.
In these excerpts from his last TV series — a family based sitcom — Billy T has to deal with his radical older daughter who wants to get a moko, a teenage boy trying to smuggle beer into his younger daughter’s birthday party, a defamation writ, and another tribe becoming his landlord. There are varying degrees of help from his wife (Ilona Rodgers), his aggressively dim Australian brother-in-law (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter’s painfully politically correct pakeha boyfriend (Mark Wright), as well as cameos from Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Blair Strang.
In Haka Māori myth is re-told through a series of stirring haka performances. Men stomp, invoke, and do pukana (tongue out, eyes wide) amidst spitting mud and fire and ... in Paremoremo Prison and under a motorway. These scenes are intercut with archive imagery of post-pākehā Māori life, from first contact to Maori Battalion, urban drift and protest. The film is a tribute to the raw power, and art, of haka. Ultimately the Once Were Warriors-like message "is positive because of the fierce, irresistible pride of the performances." Peter Calder, (NZ Herald, 1989).
After their house explodes and they bump into a gunman on Waiheke Island, journo Alf (Temuera Morrision) and Yank partner Melissa (Beverly Hills Cop’s Lisa Eilbacher) head to the West Coast, on the run from the cops and the crims. There’s a plot to blow up a plane of rugby players and a cola conspiracy, but mostly it’s an excuse for chases, capers and crashes galore, all imbued with plenty of pell-mell Pork Pie-style shenanigans (this time heading north in a red Ford Falcon) by director Geoff Murphy. This excerpt sees John Clarke cameo as a used car salesman.
Mataku was a bilingual series of half-hour dramatic narratives steeped in Māori mystique. Described as a Māori Twilight Zone, Mataku was produced by Māori writers, directors and actors, and was a strong international and domestic success. Each episode was introduced Rod Serling-style by actor Temuera Morrison. This excerpt from the first episode, which screened on TV3, portrays two young sisters (Nora and Naera) who are playing in the forest when events take a tragic turn; mysterious putapaiarehe (fairies) are implicated and haunt a troubled grown-up Nora.
This documentary follows the build-up by the Auckland Warriors to their first match in Australia’s National Rugby League competition (against the Brisbane Broncos). They are the first offshore club to compete in the NRL. The excitement and routines of a burgeoning pro sport franchise — from training to brand development — are captured alongside player profiles: Dean Bell is captain, coach is John Monie, and future Kiwi league legend Stacey Jones is an 18-year-old rising star. Presented by Temuera Morrison, the score is hard rock, and the jersey sponsor is DB Bitter.
In search of a hideout, gun-totting Gigi (Kate Elliott) and a gang with criminal tendencies end up in hot water after crashing into the lives of a middle class Māori family. To describe the whānau as meat lovers would be euphemistic. Actor/director Danny Mulheron has often gleefully given the finger to political correctness — witness Meet the Feebles, stage farce The Sex Fiend, and TV's Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. This Gibson Group production marks his in your face cinematic debut. The anarchic result promises cannibalism, comedy — and chef Tem Morrison.
New Zealand, 1903. South African tracker Arjan Van Diemen (Sexy Beast’s Ray Winstone) is hired to hunt a Māori whaler (Temuera Morrison) accused of murder. So begins a cat and mouse chase across the country, where pole position keeps changing, and the hunted man threatens to show he might actually deserve some respect. Directed by British veteran Ian Sharp (Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War), and scripted by Dutch-born emigre Nicolas van Pallandt, Tracker was one of the final productions to win a cash injection from the recently disbanded UK Film Council.
With each chilling tale "of the unexplained and unexpected" introduced by Temuera Morrison Rod Serling-style, Mataku was described as a Māori Twilight Zone. The award-winning bilingual series explored dramatic tales steeped in the supernatural world of Māori. Mataku was produced by Māori writers, directors and actors; and was a strong international and domestic success. Tension mounts in the excerpt from episode nine from the second series: when a group of old mates reunite to go fishing one of them has a long-kept secret, and terror lurks in the deep.
The night before his granddaughter's birthday, a grandfather (Anzac Wallace) has a "dream". He then proceeds with the assistance of his wife (Erihapeti Ngata) and wider community to analyse the dream, with the outcome being a win on the horses. The edition of the pioneering E Tipu E Rea series was the first film as director for actor/writer Rawiri Paratene; the screenplay was by Patricia Grace from her own short story, The Dream. Te Moemoea was filmed in Te Reo and English. Look out for a young Temuera Morrison.
This Wellington-set 80s TV series sees real estate agent Selwyn, TV producer Nardia (early turns from Temuera Morrison and Jennifer Ward-Lealand) and art student Ben (Kerry McKay) as a young trio united by a mysterious invitation. At an antique shop dinner the three adopted children discover that they share a colourful birth mother, before becoming players in a game for a legacy of $250,000 (and more existential prizes). This first episode features ouija boards and a funeral at Futuna Chapel; alongside 80s knitwear, a saxophone score and du jour animated titles.
In The Tem Show Temuera Morrison interviews and hangs with his entertainment whānau. This 'revenge of the bros' episode sees Tem korero with Kiwis involved in the Sydney-shot Star Wars chapters: he hakas with Jay Laga'aia and Bodie Taylor and cooks some eggs for Rena Owen in LA. He also meets George Lucas and gets cloned at Skywalker Ranch. Other guests in the series include uncle Howard Morrison, coaching Rotorua schoolboy rugby with Buck Shelford. This was Prime TV's first publicly funded local programme, and replayed on Māori 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."
Gloss was a popular Kiwi television drama series made by TVNZ that screened in the late 80s; it combined a wealthy family, the Redferns, with a lucrative high-fashion magazine business. Yuppies, shoulder-pads and méthode champenoise abound in this cult "glitter-soap". New Zealanders wanted to see themselves as less bottom of the world and more "here we come and we are sailing" (as the infamous Cup campaign song warbled), and Gloss was just what the era demanded.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week, and in 2012 the show celebrated its 20th anniversary making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!”.
This 80s TV series sees real estate agent Selwyn, TV producer Nardia (early turns from Temuera Morrison and Jennifer Ward-Lealand) and art student Ben (Kerry McKay) as a trio of young Wellingtonions drawn together by a mysterious invitation. At an antique shop dinner they discover they share a colourful birth mother, before becoming players in a game for a legacy of $250,000. Conceived by Brian Bell, Seekers was one of a series of teen-orientated dramas made in the mid-80s (along with Heroes and Peppermint Twist). The 16 episodes screened from February 1986.