Manu Bennett’s acting career has seen him battling Roman gladiators, teaching salsa on acclaimed movie Lantana, and creeping out both superheroes and the staff of Shortland Street.

Being a gladiator, standing in an arena with a sword in your hand with five guys charging at you and you’re ready to chop every limb off, you’ve really got to give yourself up as an actor to really live that moment. Manu Bennett, on acting in Spartacus

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Making Good Men

2016, Subject - Television

The Shannara Chronicles

2016 - 2017, As: Allanon - Television

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

2014, As: Azog - Film

Touted as the defining chapter of the trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies sees Smaug wreaking havoc from the sky, Thorin Oakenshield succumbing to dragon-sickness, and a climactic battle to dwarf anything seen in the first two Hobbit films. As Orcs look to the Lonely Mountain with their eyes on the treasure, dwarves, elves and humans must decide whether to unite and fight them off. The final Hobbit film arrived in cinemas 15 years after Peter Jackson first trained his cameras on Middle-earth — and made it clear that global blockbusters could come from New Zealand. 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

2013, As: Azog - Film

After only 17 days in international cinemas, the first part of the Hobbit trilogy stacked up enough treasure to become 2012's fourth highest-grossing movie. In part two director Peter Jackson upped the adventure quotient further, thanks to spiders, high speed river rides and the first encounter between hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Smaug the Dragon, as envisioned by Weta Digital and British star of the day Benedict Cumberbatch. Legolas (Orlando Bloom), one of the breakout characters from Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, also makes an appearance.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

2012, As: Azog - Film

JRR Tolkien's beloved novel The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins on a quest to help reclaim the lost dwarf homeland of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Shoulder-tapped by Gandalf for the mission against some opposition, Bilbo joins a company of dwarves in an epic adventure: vying against goblins, orcs and Gollum's riddles. After the box office blitzing and Oscar-slaying Lord of the Rings trilogy, adapting the precursor novel was an expected journey. Martin Freeman (The Office, Sherlock) plays Bilbo, with Peter Jackson again at the helm in this first of a three-part adaptation.

Arrow (American TV series)

2012 - 2019, Slade Wilson - Television

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

2011, As: Crixus - Television

Sinbad and the Minotaur

2011, As: Sinbad

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

2010, As: Crixus - Television

The Condemned

2007, As: Paco - Film

30 Days of Night

2007, As: Billy Kitka - Film

Tango Trois

2006, As: Man - Short Film

The Bridge

2006, Director, Producer - Short Film

The Marine

2006, As: Bennett - Film


2002, As: John - Television

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."


2001, As: Steve Valdez - Film

Street Legal

2002, As: Matt Urlich - Television

Over four seasons, Street Legal’s slick Kiwi take on urban crime and law genres racked up a stack of award nominations - including a 2003 NZ TV Award for best drama series. Although initially wary that the Auckland setting might alienate viewers, writer Greg McGee chose a Samoan lawyer (Jay Laga’aia) as his main character, to exploit the show’s inner-city Ponsonby setting (where cafe society bumps into Pacific Island immigrant culture). Other key characters included Silesi’s lawyer ex-girlfriend Joni, and her new partner Kees, an overstressed sergeant.


1999, Actor - Film

The Violent Earth

1998, As: Wanatcha DuValier - Television

Tales of the South Seas

1998 - 2000, As: David Legeure - Television

Water Rats

1996 - 2001, As: Joseph Lipinski - Television

Xena: Warrior Princess

2000, As: Marc Antony - Television

Paradise Beach

1993 - 1994, As: Kirk Barsby - Television

Shortland Street

2000 - 2001, As: Jack Hewitt - Television

Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.