In more than 25 years as an actor, Craig Hall has gone from playing the brooding bad boy to the good guy. He puts it down to a simple reason. “Maybe I’ve just got a good head for cops and doctors.”
From Westside to Sydneysider, Hall is recognisable to audiences for his roles in Outrageous Fortune and A Place to Call Home. But his career hasn’t all been about black singlets and motorbikes (although there have been plenty of both).
Hall's introduction to acting began modestly. “In the early 90s I went to a workshop that was being run by an American method actor. He told me that I would need to prepare a monologue and I said ‘Yep. Great. No Problem.”
But there was a problem. “As soon as I could, I called my friend who was an actor and asked him ‘What’s a monologue?’ Luckily for me he explained what it was and I managed to do it.”
Only five years after taking up acting, Hall had built up an impressive resume which included television appearances in Hercules, Duggan, Street Legal and a stint as a reporter on Shortland Street. The latter show required a lot of discipline. "You have 20 minutes to shoot a scene. Sometimes you’d have 10 scenes a day and wall to wall dialogue. To actually consistently be believable on the show is no mean feat.”
Hall's big screen break came with a role in Mark Beesley’s first movie Savage Honeymoon (2000). NZ Herald critic Peter Calder called it "virtually impossible to dislike". But to the cast and crew’s dismay, Savage Honeymoon was initially given an R18 rating. After industry lobbying, the rating was changed to R15.
Producer Steve Sachs said that “casting the characters was very difficult. Craig is the strong silent one.” Director Mark Beesley encouraged his actors to get into character, telling Onfilm magazine that the characters “smoke. They swear. They root. They don’t wear seatbelts.”
Hall recalls the shoot being a lot of fun. “I was terribly green when I look back now. I was purely acting on instinct — there’s no technique there. I’m an avid motorcyclist and always have been so it was a lot of fun for me. It was such a great cast ... Mark just encouraged us to live like that; have fun and drink and party.”
Hall again had to channel his inner Westie when auditioning for hit show Outrageous Fortune. He recalls that the role of ambitious, often dishonest Nicky Greegan made him a seemingly ‘overnight sensation’. “You always get that thing where people think they know you from somewhere, like “do I know you from high school?” and you feel like a wanker saying I’m an actor – but certainly with Outrageous Fortune, that recognition factor was huge. I joined in season four, and by that time lots of people were watching”.
But Hall's career hasn’t all been about black singlets and ACDC. Long before taking the Outrageous Fortune gig, he was cast in The Strip, a television series that involved a group of male strippers. In this video interview, he recalls the moment an unsuspecting group from an old folks’ home caught a rehearsal.
In 2005, Hall turned his talents to the big screen with roles in The World’s Fastest Indian — acting opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins — plus Peter Jackson blockbuster King Kong, playing one of Carl Denham's film crew.
The following year, Hall starred in The Ferryman, a local movie that didn’t do quite so well at the box office. “Ironically I did some of my best work in that film. At the time we were shooting, I was staying with Kyle Chandler from Friday Night Lights and when I got the script, I noticed the character was American. So I said maybe I’d make the accent like Kyle; a bit southern. He read my script into the dictaphone, so I could get the accent down. Some of his improvisations made it through to the end result.”
He followed it with Anthony McCarten's second feature Show of Hands, playing a smart and cynical salesman competing in an endurance contest. The role required lots of dialogue. "It was a tough shoot, but I had a ball on it."
Soon after, Hall relocated to Australia for the part of Detective Bill McKay in Razor, the 1920s version of popular series Underbelly. He returned to home shores to play a Kiwi commando in the horror film The Devils Rock, a low-budget feature shot in just 14 days. “I was in pretty much every scene. It was difficult but it was very hands on and you were part of the machine rather than just a cog.”
Hall continued to appear in New Zealand productions. In Bloodlines he played the real life physician (Andrew Bowers) who stumbled upon the ‘perfect murder’. Hall won an Aotearoa Television Award for the role. There were further roles in Australia, before he and wife Sara Wiseman made the shift across the Tasman permanently in 2011. Having recently acted together in TV movie What Really Happened - Votes for Women, they were both cast in long-running 1950s drama A Place to Call Home.
“For Sara and I to play opposite each other for six years is amazing. Our goal was simply to be in the same city — and so to get the opportunity to share scenes with her has been an absolute gift.”
The pair first met on the set of 2000 short Home Kill. As Wiseman told The Sunday Telegraph, "his character murders my husband and then tries to take his place”. Wiseman also had a part in Hall’s 2013 directing debut Mumma’s Boy, a short film that takes place on the set of a low-budget porn shoot.
Ironically, the move to Sydney reinforced Hall’s desire to tell more New Zealand stories. One of those stories was telemovie In Dark Places — a dramatisation of the Teina Pora case. Hall played the man who helped proved Pora was innocent, private investigator Tim McKinnel; a character Hall says is probably "the best good guy I could ever play".
Profile written by Zara Potts
Published on 14 September 2018
'Cinema of Ease’ - Onfilm, September 1998
Alan Samson, ‘Rocky Start to Honeymoon’ - The Dominion Post, March 2000
Adrienne Tam ‘How to work harmoniously with your spouse’ (Interview with Sara Wiseman) - The Sunday Telegraph (Stellar pullout), 15 October 2017
Unknown writer, ‘Way Out West’ (Interview) – Pavement, February 2000
Savage Honeymoon press kit