He learnt kapa haka as a child. He learnt to smoulder on Shortland Street. He punched a country in the guts with Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison has starred in Māori westerns, adventure romps, and cannibal comedies. In the backgrounder to this special collection, NZ On Screen editor Ian Pryor traces Temuera Morrison's journey from haka to Hollywood.
After being spotted performing for tourists in Rotorua, 11-year-old Temuera Morrison was given his very first starring role in this British TV series, shot downunder by expat Kiwi director Michael Forlong. In this clip, Rangi (Morrison) and co have adventures with sharks, crayfish and a stranded sheep near their remote South Island farm. Meanwhile two robbers (Ian Mune and Michael Woolf) sneak into the house. The scene is set for crims and and children to chase each other all the way to Rotorua. The series was seen in New Zealand cinemas in a shortened movie version.
The first episode of Shortland Street starts with a pregnant woman being rushed to the clinic after an accident. Only the doctors are all missing. Visiting doctor Hone Ropata (Temuera Morrison), who is soon to join the Shortland Street team, makes the call to deliver the baby. Head nurse Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) disagrees, and proceeds to mention that Dr Ropata is no longer in Guatemala. This first episode of the five night a week soap screened on 25 May 1992. It would go on to become New Zealand's longest running TV drama (but not our first soap — that was Close to Home).
Temuera Morrison is best known for one of New Zealand’s most graphic film performances: Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors. He reprised his role in the redemption sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Before the Warriors films, Morrison played Dr Hone Ropata in the long-running soap Shortland Street. He has appeared in a range of TV productions and a number of Hollywood films including the Star Wars franchise.
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.
From Jake the Muss to bounty hunter Jango Fett to talk show host, Temuera Morrison has played them all. In 2013 he played himself in this seven-part reality series, with cameras following over six months as he tried to revive his career. In this first episode, the easy-going actor has a birthday with his kids in hometown Rotorua, chats to his Hollywood agent about job possibilities from the rebirth of Star Wars, and faces up to learning an American accent. Later episodes saw him publicising hit film Mt Zion, and fielding an offer to direct.
Inspired by Witi Ihimaera's Bulibasha, Mahana saw director Lee Tamahori making his first film on local soil since a very different family tale: 1994's Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison stars as a 60s era farming patriarch who makes it clear his family should have absolutely nothing to do with rival family the Poatas. Then romance enters the picture, and son Simeon sets out to find out how the feud first started. The powerhouse Māori cast includes Nancy Brunning (who is included in the interview clips) and Jim Moriarty. Mahana debuted at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, before NZ release.
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.
After their house explodes and they bump into a gunman, journalist Alf (Temuera Morrision) and his American girlfriend (Beverly Hills Cop’s Lisa Eilbacher) head to the West Coast, on the run from the cops and mysterious forces. The conspiracy plot is mostly an excuse for chases, capers and crashes galore, all imbued with plenty of pell-mell shenanigans (this time heading north in a red Falcon) by Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy. The movie marked Temuera Morrison's first big screen starring role. This excerpt sees John Clarke cameo as a used car salesman.
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.
New Zealand, 1903. A veteran of the Boer War (Sexy Beast’s Ray Winstone) is hired to hunt a Māori seaman (Temuera Morrison), who has been framed for murder. So begins a cat and mouse chase where pole position keeps changing, and the South African is pressed to open up about his past. Directed by Brit Ian Sharp (Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War) and scripted by Dutch-born emigre Nicolas van Pallandt — who died before it got to the screen —Tracker was one of the last productions to win cash from the UK Film Council. The extras include interviews with both lead actors.
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. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
When his father dies, soldier Will Bastion (Temuera Morrison) returns home after 20 years. Tradition dictates he take on the mantle of tribal chief, but he's not interested. His brother Kahu (Lawrence Makoare) seizes the opportunity, but he's a drug-dealer with grand plans to get stolen land back. Worried about Kahu's provocative approach, Will must choose whether to face off against his brother. Melding horseback action and indigenous land rights, Crooked Earth marked the first NZ film for director Sam Pillsbury since 1987's Starlight Hotel. Variety called it "handsomely mounted and compelling".
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).
Australian Idol winner Stan Walker made his acting debut in this hit feature, as aspiring singer Turei. Part of a whānau of Māori potato pickers from Pukekohe, he has to choose between duty to job and family (Temuera Morrison plays his hard-working Dad) and letting the music play. His dilemma takes place as reggae star Bob Marley performs in Aotearoa in 1979, offering the chance for Turei's band Small Axe to win a supporting slot at Marley's Western Springs concert. Released on Waitangi Day 2013, Tearepa Kahi's debut feature became the most successful local release of the year.
Police drama Mortimer's Patch included a Māori sergeant (played by Don Selwyn) among its quartet of rural coppers, yet the series only rarely explored Māori topics. Penned by Greg McGee, this episode plots a small-town twist on questions of racism, abuse of privilege, and the horse-trading behind which cases go to court. After a theft at the local takeaways, one of a trio of young Māori reacts to the racist perpetrator — a Pākehā businessman — by breaking the law himself. The guest cast includes Frank Whitten (Outrageous Fortune), Selwyn Muru and Temuera Morrison, whose only line is "Honky. Smooth honky. Nasty".
The night before his granddaughter's birthday, a man who likes having a flutter on the horses (Utu star Anzac Wallace) has a "dream". But which horse is he meant to bet on this time? Raniera gets help from his wife (Erihapeti Ngata) and the local community, to understand what the dream might mean. This edition of the pioneering Māori drama series marked Rawiri Paratene's debut as director. Patricia Grace based the screenplay on her story 'The Dream'; Temuera Morrison has a small role. Viewers can choose whether to watch the episode in Te Reo or in English.
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.