You are here:

Biography

Terence Bayler has only a small number of screen credits in New Zealand, but dozens more in the United Kingdom.

The Wanganui-born actor began his career at a time when paid acting gigs on his home turf were far fewer even than now. Bayler spent time in early touring theatre group the New Zealand Players, run by husband and wife Dick and Edith Campion.

In 1951 John O'Shea and Roger Mirams set about doing something that had not been done for over a decade: making a local feature film. They enlisted Bayler to star in Broken Barrier, playing a young and sometimes selfish journalist, who falls for a young Māori woman named Rawi (Kay Ngarimu) after her family offer him work on their farm. Made on a shoestring, the film won healthy audiences in New Zealand on release.

Making an income as an actor was then no easy task. New Zealand — and O'Shea's — next feature would have to wait another decade, as would local television drama. In 1958 Bayler acted in Family Tree, a short about farming which O'Shea and Mirams made for the NZ Meat Board.

By 1960 Bayler had relocated to England, where he balanced bit parts on television and film with studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1969 he appeared on Doctor Who as a World War I officer kidnapped by the villainous War Lords.

Soon after Bayler won newspaper headlines while working on his first big movie role since Broken Barrier — while playing Macduff in a Roman Polanski version of Macbeth, he got five stitches after being cut above his eye during a sword fight with lead actor Jon Finch. On release The Tragedy of Macbeth met mixed reviews, although Polanski's nihilistic and violent interpretation is now held in a much better light.

Among his stage roles, Bayler spent time as narrator on Kiwi Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show, a year into its run.

In 1976 Bayler acted in a project involving another expat Kiwi. Old Man March is Dead, which screened on anthology drama series Centre Play, came from prolific TV writer Bruce Stewart (Timeslip) — not to be confused with the other Kiwi writer of the same name.

Bayler's association with various members of Monty Python dates from the same mid 70s period. As part of the acting troupe on Eric Idle comedy series Rutland Weekend Television, he played a shy announcer, and an effete SS officer known as the Pink Panzer. Rutland's cult fame is complicated by rights issues which have limited further screenings. It is most famous for spawning Beatles parody band The Rutles, who went on to star in fondly regarded early music mockumentary All You Need is Cash (1978). Bayler plays the band's manager Leggy Mountbatten.

Thanks to Python, Bayler would make it onto an online poll of people's favourite funny lines on film — for a scene in Life of Brian where his character Gregory says "I'm Brian and so's my wife". Bayler is among those who end up on a cross in the film's musical finale; he also played bit parts in two films by Python animator Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits and Brazil.

In 1981 John O'Shea invited Bayler back to New Zealand to act in period drama Pictures. The film dramatises the opposing career paths of colonial photographers the Burton Brothers. Bayler portrays John Rochfort, the real-life surveyor who among other things mapped the North Island's main trunk railway line. 

In 1992 he joined Kiwi film crew in Rarotonga for BBC mini-series The Other Side of Paradise, based around a doctor (Jason Connery) who finds love in the South Seas. Bayler has continued to act on screen: he cameoed in the Harry Potter films as the bewigged ghost of the Bloody Baron, memorably interrupting a meal at Hogworts as he cut a swathe with his imaginary sword. Bayler also stars as an old man who hears his children planning his future in short film We Know What We Know.


Sources include
Frances Dowsett, 'Kiwis Pack Em In At London's Lunchtime Plays' – New Zealand Women's Weekly, 16 September 1974
Peter Wells, Review of Pictures - Listener, 18 June 1983
Sarah Womack, 'Life of Brian wins the vote for film's best laughter line' – The Telegraph, 19 February 2002
'NZ Actor Hurt in Film Scene' - Evening Post, 23 March 1971
Neil Innes website. Accessed 20 November 2012