Jonathan Hardy was known for a sense of humour. When he died in the closing days of July 2012, his friend, fellow Kiwi acting export Lani Tupu wrote of his wonderful stories and “wicked wit”. Hardy sometimes pointed that wit at himself — in a BBC interview he joked of his distinctively generous eyebrows that they were “like looking out from under wisteria”, and said he loved the way his Farscape character “bites people, and farts helium”.
Back in his native New Zealand, Hardy made his mark early in a 1966 touring production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Ian Mune remembers him as a bundle of energy, “prancing, dancing, somersaulting, spinning and clowning” as Dromio. Mune describes the play’s cast as “a strange mish-mash of Poms, Ockers and Kiwis”. The words could just as easily have described Hardy’s career.
Hardy spent much of the 60s in England, acting for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Bristol Old Vic, plus varied regional theatres. He also spend a year doing vocal study in Spain.
Hardy began acting in Australia in 1972. Though he would continue to work regularly on Kiwi projects into the mid 80s and occasionally beyond, by the mid 70s Australia had become his primary creative base.
The acting jobs ranged from classics — John Clarke romance Lonely Hearts, one of the Catholic brothers in Fred Schepisi’s The Devil’s Playground, and the local undertaker in Kiwi gothic The Scarecrow — to the ridiculous (“genuinely terrible” sci-fi series Andra, and early Aussie sex comedy The Adventures of Barry McKenzie). Later he acted in Kiwi children’s tale Nearly No Christmas, and played the Man in the Moon in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Placido Domingo did the singing.
Hardy acted extensively for the Auckland and Melbourne theatre companies, and headed the MTC’s youth wing for two years. In 1978 he acted in the premiere of Breaker Morant, based on a controversial case involving the court-martial and execution of three Australian soldiers in the Boer War.
When the play was turned into a classic movie, Hardy co-wrote the script with David Stevens and director Bruce Beresford. The film won much acclaim, and was nominated for a scriptwriting Oscar at the 1981 Academy Awards.
By then Hardy had returned home to head Auckland’s Mercury Theatre for five years. After impressing in the role of Ahab in Orson Welles play Moby Dick Rehearsed, Hardy and director Ian Mune encouraged author Maurice Shadbolt to write them a play. The result, after heated battles over creative control and running time, was Gallipoli saga Once on Chunuk Bair.
Hardy’s own writing credits include two Kiwi projects: Constance (1984), which he wrote with director Bruce Morrison, and short-lived TV series Porters (1987). Constance stars Donogh Rees as a woman haunted by dreams of glamour and stardom in 1940s Auckland. New York's Time Out raved that the "lush and exhilarating" film combined style with "genuine emotion". Porters, which Hardy also produced, starred George Henare and Peter Bland as hospital orderlies.
On screen, Hardy’s directing career never really took off. He was set to direct one of the The Man from Snowy River movies when heart problems — and a heart transplant — got in the way. Hardy went on to direct and co-write Backstage (1988), a failed star vehicle for American singer Laura Branigan (best known for hit song 'Gloria' which was synonymous with Flashdance). She played an American singer acting in a play in Australia.
Hardy’s longest-running role saw him providing the voice of two-foot-tall alien Dominar Rygel in sci fi series Farscape. Shot in Australia, the show ran for four seasons and a wrap-up mini-series. Hardy argued that the (puppet) character was “greedy and selfish and generous and heroic ... so in many ways, because he is so flawed and in many ways so great, I guess he is an archetypal human being. I love him, he's a sweet little guy.”
Hardy continued to occasionally return to act in New Zealand: 1920s-era drama The Lie of the Land (1984); an award-winning part in Alzheimer’s play A Tree Falling (which Hardy had adapted for a film to be directed by fellow Kiwi expat David Letch); and a New Zealand Film Award for his work in short film Camping with Camus (2000). Hardy starred in this comedic camping tale, based on a story by Owen Marshall.
One of his final screen gigs was co-writing Australian fantasy Wishbone, a tale of “magic and dreams coming true”. Jonathan Hardy died in the final days of July, 2012. He was 71.
‘Jonathan Hardy’ (broken link), Sue Barnett & Associates website. Accessed 4 March 2013
Phillip Mann, 'The First Production of 'Once on Chunuk Bair' (Interview with Maurice Shadbolt) - Illusions 11, July 1989, Page 14
Ian Mune, Mune - An Autobiography (Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing, 2010)
‘A long career - Jonathan Hardy’ (Interview) BBC website. Accessed 9 November 2016
'Rain Days and Mondays...'(Announcement of Hardy's death). Facebook website: Lani Tupu Fan Page. Loaded 30 July 2012. Accessed 31 July 2012
'Constance' (Review). Time Out website. Accessed 9 November 2016
Wishbone website (broken link). Accessed 31 July 2012