Actor and director Michael Hurst is a Kiwi creative institution. Even leaving aside his work as a director and stage actor, Hurst's screen resume runs to 50 roles and counting: including playing everyone from painter Toulouse-Lautrec, to Hercules's sidekick Iolaus, to politician Rodney Hide.
Hurst himself is stunning. This is an actor of total integrity, extraordinary adaptability, controlled skill and commitment. He muscles through two and a half hours that would exhaust a prize fighter and still finds the reserves for the subtleties. Listener review of play The Holy Sinner, 8 October 1990
Classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune won a devoted following over six seasons. Prequel show Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safe cracker Ted West (David de Lautour) and his fiery wife Rita (Outrageous actor Antonia Prebble). Each episode of series one was set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two was set during the 1981 Springbok Tour; a third, set in 1982, follows in 2017. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the writing team behind the original.
Twenty-four year-old barman Dave finds his life turned upside down when he meets the girl of his dreams — Cara, 14 years his senior, and the owner of three kids. Over two seasons, the light-hearted drama explored whether their live-in relationship could survive the weight of low expectations, and her unruly family. Created by Kate McDermott (This is Her), Step Dave starred Swedish emigre Sia Trokenheim (2014 film Everything we Loved) and Brit born Jono Kenyon. Interest in the format encompassed the Ukraine — which remade the show in 2016 — France, Hungary and Greece.
Created by Outrageous Fortune’s James Griffin and Rachel Lang, this South Pacific Pictures-produced TV3 dramedy is about a family of Norse gods who wash up in 21st Century New Zealand. Emmett Skilton stars as Axl aka Odin, who must restore his brothers' lapsed superpowers and find his wife Frigg ("no pressure, then"). But he is thwarted by Norse goddesses and Māori deities. The combo of fantastical plot and droll Kiwi bloke banter won loyal fans, who successfully campaigned for a third (and final) season. Johnsons screened on the SyFy channel in the US in 2014.
Actor Michael Hurst began life in northern England, then moved to Christchurch at age eight. In this Here to Stay episode he looks at the pervasive elements of Kiwi culture that derive from mother England — from roasts, rugby, tea and the Mini, to a language and legal system. In this excerpt Hurst fries up fish'n'chips with Ray McVinnie, stalks deer with Davey Hughes, and explores how class ideals travelled south to Mt Peel and Christ's College .... A chorus of Kiwis, including ex-All Blacks' captain David Kirk and historian Jock Phillips, ponder the influence.
Tattoo artist Jake Sawyer (Jason Behr, American star of Roswell) travels the world looking for ethnic designs to exploit for his art. At a tattoo expo in Singapore, he is introduced to the traditional Samoan tattoo, and falls for Sina (No. 2's Mia Blake) the beautiful cousin of tattooist Alipati. When Jake recklessly steals a Samoan tattooing tool, he unwittingly unleashes a powerful spirit that endangers everyone he touches. This inaugural Kiwi-Singaporean co-production was directed by Peter Burger and produced by Robin Scholes (Once Were Warriors).
Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson experienced bankruptcy, accusations of fraud, and 25 plus tax audits. This Kafkaesque comedy is based on his best-selling book about a five-year battle with the tax department, over a $924,000 bill. Kiwi/Scot actor Erik Thomson returned from Australia to play Henderson, while a near-unrecognisable Michael Hurst cameos as MP Rodney Hide. Lumiere reviewer Simon Sweetman praised the “superb” casting, and Thomson’s playful performance. The film is adapted and directed by screen vet Jonothan Cullinane.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe, Maddigan's Fantasia on their quest to save the world's only remaining city, Solis. The show was created by children's writer Margaret Mahy, developed for television by writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang for South Pacific Pictures, who produced the 13 x 30min series for TV3. Award-winning and successfully exported, it marked a debut lead performance from Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) acting with Michael Hurst, Peter Daube, Tim Balme and Danielle Cormack.
This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe on their quest to save the city of Solis. Conceived by Margaret Mahy and developed by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, the award-winning series was produced by South Pacific Pictures. A young Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) led the cast, acting with a caravan of Kiwi veterans. Māori elements mixed with rural West Auckland sets in the ‘solar punk’ rendering of the future. Here, Garland (McIver) faces tragedy but meets two boys (and a baby) with magical powers.
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".
Subtitled A Journalist's View, this award-winning documentary makes the case that Scott Watson shouldn't have been imprisoned for murdering Ben Smart and Olivia Hope — because he couldn't have done it. Returning to Endeavour Inlet, veteran director Keith Hunter talks to witnesses, and argues the prosecution fumbled vital details of the murderer's yacht and description, then advanced a new theory without evidence to back it. Hunter went on to write 2007 book Trial by Trickery, further critiquing what he calls “New Zealand's most blatantly dishonest prosecution”.
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."
A TV network hires actor Kevin Smith to front a documentary about a town divided by an unusual discovery. Gooey Duck — a shellfish with reputed aphrodisiac qualities — has appeared off Ureroa. The quota is owned by a local couple but the rest of the town, big business, the government and the local iwi all have their own ideas. Smith's involvement gets complicated when he innocently consumes the mollusk while watching Prime Minister Jenny Shipley on TV. Writer Stephen Sinclair satiries television, celebrity, gender, politicis, small town New Zealand and penises.
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.
Duggan features John Bach as brooding Detective Inspector Duggan, attempting to solve murders amid the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds. New Zealand's answer to Inspector Morse, the show was conceived by Marion McLeod, scripted by Donna Malane and Ken Duncum, and produced by The Gibson Group; the series followed on from introductory tele-features Death in Paradise and Sins of the Father. The turquoise waters of The Sounds (shot in a number of episodes by Leon Narbey) make for an evocative setting in this sharp, classy Kiwi whodunit.
Duggan features John Bach in the title role of the brooding city detective who is called on to solve murders, amid the tranquillity of the Marlborough Sounds. In this excerpt from part one of two-parter 'A Shadow of Doubt', Duggan, initially reluctant, finds himself investigating the kidnapping of the daughter of friend Joanne Taylor (Jennifer Ward-Lealand). The cast of suspects includes Joanne's business partner (Andy Anderson). A sharp, stylish Kiwi take on the classic English whodunit, this episode features some evocative imagery by Leon Narbey.
The light-hearted but star-heavy I'll Make You Happy unapologetically showcases a group of Auckland prostitutes, united by girl power — and a general distaste for their pimp (Michael Hurst). Jodie Rimmer dons many wigs and personas as Siggy, the spunky young sex worker who fends off Hurst's pleading advances, while pulling a nerdy banker (Ian Hughes) into her plans for a game-changing heist. The eclectic soundtrack is heavy on electronica, while the cast includes Rena Owen, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, dancer Taiaroa Royal, and a one-minute cameo by Lucy Lawless.
This documentary about Māori writer Witi Ihimaera features him in conversation with filmmaker Merata Mita. Ihimaera traverses his life and writing career, emphasising the importance of his family (particularly his mother and grandmother) and his overriding Māori identity. Aileen O'Sullivan's film features a star-studded assemblage of local literature — Keri Hulme, Albert Wendt, publisher Geoff Walker — and a dramatised excerpt from his novel Bulibasha ( featuring Rena Owen, Michael Hurst and Rawiri Paratene), shot roughly two decades before 2016 movie adaptation Mahana.
Readings from the poems of James K Baxter trace the poet's life through its various New Zealand locations, and provide a biographical voice in this film by Bruce Morrison (co-written with Dr Paul Millar). Baxter's family and friends discuss the man and his work, and the readings and beautifully shot landscapes fill in the gaps. The film won Best Documentary at the 1998 Film and TV Awards. The opening montage, describing "the chugging noise of masturbation from the bedrooms of the bourgeois" of Auckland, is seminal Baxter.
Flip & Two Twisters is a Shirley Horrocks documentary about New Zealand artist Len Lye. Motion maestro Lye's international reputation rests on his work as a filmmaker and kinetic sculptor and his lively contributions to the London and New York avant-garde. The documentary explores Lye's career and ideas, with the help of historical footage and excerpts from his films. It includes footage of Lye in typically exuberant form outlining his process, introduces many of his kinetic works, and documents how some of his most ambitious plans are now being realised in NZ.
This short film was a directorial debut for actor Michael Hurst and screened at Cannes (1994) in a Kiwi shorts showcase. The title comes from country music legend Hank Williams; and more Americana staples — strangers, trains, road trips — are relocated to late-1953 NZ. The marriage of a salesman and his wife has ended in tears. With skilful use of flashbacks, Hurst follows their respective paths with some mysterious travelling companions: Hank Williams and a railways inspector. A passing interest in NZ rail history will add context to the conclusion.
This boisterous Geoff Dixon-directed commercial dates from the time when craft beer was yet to make a big mark, and Lion Red was NZ's number one beer. Hyperactive in a flannel shirt, a pre-Hercules Michael Hurst takes the mic at a pub talent quest, and sings a war cry for Kiwi blokes against wimpy pretenders like champagne cocktails and Mexican beers. Local advertising veteran Roy Meares wrote the "anti-yuppie commercial" (he was also behind the long-running Speights 'Perfect Woman' campaign). The Murray Grindlay-composed song became a pub anthem.
This stylishly high camp melodrama from directors Stewart Main and Peter Wells won acclaim, after debuting at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In the imaginary 19th-century town of Hope, draper Dorothea Brooks (Jennifer Ward-Lealand) is desperate to save her sister from the clutches of opium, sex and the dastardly Fraser. She begs hunky migrant Lawrence Hayes to help; but complications ensue. Inspired partly by 1930s and 40s Hollywood melodramas, Desperate Remedies was sumptously shot by Leon Narbey (Whale Rider). Richard King writes about the film here.
After the assassination of scientist David Typhon, a cast of interested parties head for his secret lab in New Zealand, pursuing the truth behind rumoured experiments on humans. Among them are rabid protestors, a European infiltrator (Michael Hurst) and the strangely-gifted Cato (Greg Wise). Typhon’s People marked a rare time that writer Margaret Mahy created a story aimed at adult audiences. Blessed with an impressive cast of Kiwis, Brits (Wise, Alfred Molina), and The Castle star Sophie Lee, it sold as both a mini-series and as a 90 minute tele-movie.
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.
One of a select few Kiwi dramas about filmmaking, The Footstep Man centres on a man whose job is creating footsteps and sound effects for movies. Lonely, toiling under a demanding director, Sam (Brit Steven Grimes) gets trapped between real life and reel life. Cinematographer Leon Narbey’s second movie is a portrait of the strange pressure cooker of creating films, a luminous film within a film — with Jennifer Ward-Lealand as muse to painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — and a reminder that for all the technology involved, moviemaking is about the human touch.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). Key original cast and the famous original title sequence and tune are reprised, but now with Beauty galloping along a west coast beach. Two seasons were produced.
A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the eighth episode sees Manfred attempt to fly on Karekare beach in a Richard Pearse-like contraption, as a shady-looking Kurt (Michael Hurst) looks on, and Vicky charges to the rescue on Beauty.
This is the first of a two-part "money and greed" morality tale set in a Rogernomics-era 'New Auckland' of property deals and horse racing. Working class lass Tammy (Annie Whittle) and art consultant Joanna (Miranda Harcourt, fresh from Gloss) are an unlikely duo who inherit a racehorse and a greasy spoon cafe (instant coffee rather than cappuccino). Brit import James Faulkner plays a shady developer whose scheme is blocked by the duo. Murder, underhand unitary plans, yuppie love and old gambling debts complicate life for Tammy and Joanna.
Set in a Rogernomics-era 'New Auckland' world of property deals and horse racing, the second part of this 1989 mini-series sees the brassy odd couple Tammy (Annie Whittle) and Joanna (Miranda Harcourt) in deep water. The working class battler and the art consultant have done up their inherited greasy spoon, but they're the "only fly in the ointment" of the 'Vision 2000' scheme of a nefarious developer (Brit import James Faulkner). Girl power meets utopian unitary planning as the duo find bones in the basement, and get too close to the secrets of Huntercorp HQ.
Director John Laing followed acclaimed romance Other Halves with an equally stylish but very different big city tale: a thriller in which three orphans plan an international heist to avenge the killing of one of their fathers. The expected diet of shootings, skulduggery and globetrotting accents is enlived by side trips to Geneva, songs from romantic interest Jennifer Ward-Lealand, and a cast of villains to die for (Peter Bland, Ian Mune, Anzac Wallace, Grant Tilly). When Dangerous Orphans was sold in Europe it set an early record for a New Zealand film.
This was New Zealand's first big historical drama after the controversy over the cost of The Governor almost a decade earlier. Over seven episodes — set between 1895 and 1914 — it followed the life of Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon, focussing on six of his most important cases. British actor David Gwillim played Hanlon, while Australian Robyn Nevin was cast as convicted baby murderer Minnie Dean in the first and most celebrated episode. A major critical, ratings and awards success, it immediately recouped its budget when the Minnie Dean episode spurred a big international sale.
TVNZ’s 80s arts programme follows a Royal NZ Ballet visit to China in this documentary directed by Keith Hunter. The trip is billed as a cultural exchange but the term belies the stresses of missing equipment, a director who has lost his voice, language barriers, incorporating a local seven-year-old girl into their performance and, for some, the dishes at a banquet. On a rare day off, there’s a chance to marvel at the scale of the The Great Wall; and there are insights into the everyday lives of the Chinese people as the country begins to open itself up to the world.
Long before the comedy of Flight of the Conchords, Heroes followed the triumphs and pitfalls of a band trying to make it in the mid-80s NZ music biz. It marked the first major role for Jay Laga’aia, and early lead gigs for Michael Hurst and Margaret Umbers. In this first episode the band gets together as Dave (Hurst) ditches his covers band, flunks a TV audition, and hooks up opportunist flatmate Ron (Laga’aia), synth player Peter (John Gibson, who co-wrote the series music) and bass player Maxine (Umbers). Synth and leopard skin abound.
Pre-dating Peter Jackson's arrival (Bad Taste) by three years, New Zealand's first horror movie sees Michael Hurst making his movie debut as he fights mutants (including Bruno Lawrence) on Waiheke Island. Hurst's character is out to avenge the mad scientist who forced him to kill his parents. A grand prize-winner at a French fantasy festival (with cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky on the jury), David Blyth's splatterfest marked the first of many horrors funded by the NZ Film Commission. It was also the first local showcase of the smoothly-flowing Steadicam camera.
Heroes followed a band trying to make it in the mid-80s music biz. Teen-orientated, the show marked a first major role for Jay Laga’aia (Star Wars), and an early gig for Michael Hurst (with blonde Billy Idol spikes). Band keyboardist John Gibson co-wrote the series music; he later became an award-winning film composer. Margaret Umbers (Shortland Street, Bridge to Nowhere) was a non-musician in the cast (with Hurst), but since has sung regularly in a jazz band. A second series follow in 1986.
Daphne and Chloe offers a love triangle with a twist: here the couple under threat are two woman friends (despite rumours their relationship is romantic) who work at an advertising agency. Their friendship, based partly on warding off loneliness, is threatened when the cool, cultured Edith (Helena Ross), starts dating the new office boy (Michael Hurst) — a man 18 years her junior. The typing pool are abuzz. Daphne and Chloe was one of a trio of tele-plays that resulted after TVNZ gave legendary playwright Bruce Mason the chance to choose his themes.
It's April 1966 when young Massey student Peter (Hurst, sporting period mop and moustache) makes a surprise visit back home at the farm during study break, and is quickly put out by the archaic social mores: "ya taken to wearing a bra as well?". It's also Anzac Day, and his newfound pacifism and career plans soon put him on a collision course with his veteran father (Vere-Jones) in a surprisingly potent TV drama that pulls no punches — literally — in its depiction of a generation gap that proves irreconcilable.
Blam Blam Blam’s second hit from 1981 was angular and artsy, hook-filled but unsettling: all qualities captured in a theatrical video, directed by Andrew Shaw. Clowns, magicians, fire-eaters and trick cyclists join the band, while actors play out the saga of ‘Don’t Fight It, Marsha’. The actors — including Phillip Gordon (Came a Hot Friday), Michael Hurst and Donogh Rees (Constance) — were directed by Harry Sinclair, who would later join Blam band member Don McGlashan in The Front Lawn. The Len Lye-style scratch effects were by Jenny Pullar, the Blams’ lighting designer.