Marton Csokas is such a versatile actor that alongside the gang of villains crowding out his resume, he has pulled off roles as various as nervous doctors, unperturble elf lords, and browbeaten Croatian immigrants.
Marton Csokas (pronounced ‘Cho-kash') was born in Invercargill, to a Hungarian engineer father and a Kiwi mother of Irish-Danish descent. When his parents parted, Csokas spent time living with his mother in Sydney. He played Prince Charming in a primary school production of Sleeping Beauty, struggling in a green crepe costume.
Csokas returned to New Zealand at the age of ten. Later he would break away from a period of fundamentalist christianity by travelling overseas. In London he began to think seriously about theatre and art, after an exhibition of German Expressionism opened his eyes to the "beauty and sickness of the human condition."
Back in New Zealand, Csokas started studying art history and American literature at the University of Canterbury, before switching to drama school in Wellington.
His break came in 1991 with a spell as a presenter on music show Coca Cola TVFM. But the role did not suit him. Over the next few years Csokas co-founded a theatre company and acted in short films, including Harry Sinclair's Casual Sex, and starring roles in Scott Reynolds pieces The M1nute and A Game with No Rules.
In 1993 he joined the cast for the second season of Shortland Street. He enjoyed the comic aspects of playing bespectacled doctor Leonard Dodds; the character became one of the most popular in the ensemble soap cast (Dodds would later depart for California). The following year he starred in Auckland romance Vulcan Lane for director Michael Firth; though little seen in New Zealand, the film sold to an American cable network.
By 1995 Csokas himself was everywhere: in the long-running Speights ads; on television in Cover Story and two Montana Sunday Theatre dramas (Niki Caro's Plain Tastes, and as one of the soldiers in David Blyth's The Call Up); and at the movies, alongside drama school classmate Tim Balme in failed fantasy Jack Brown Genius, plus homo-erotic short Twilight of the Gods.
In 1997 he was nominated for best supporting actor at the NZ Film Awards for his turn in Croatian-Māori romance Broken English, which won rave reviews when it played in the United States. Csokas was mesmerising as Darko, the shaven-headed Croatian dominated by his narrow-minded father.
The same year, Csokas played Xena's warlord ex-lover Borias in three episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, a role he would fitfully reprise until 2001. But Xena aside, Csokas spent the next few years working mainly on the other side of the Tasman. In 1998 he starred as a loner in a little seen feature, the two-hander Hurrah.
His other Australian roles include Alex Proyas comedy Garage Days (as a slimy band manager) acclaimed banking mini-series The Farm, and Australian filmed bio-pic The Three Stooges. Csokas was also nominated for an Australian Film Institute Award for a guest role on longrunning series G.P., and played husband to Kelly McGillis in lesbian thriller The Monkey's Mask.
Come the turn of the millennium, Csokas returned to New Zealand to appear in coming of age story Rain, the directorial debut of Christine Jeffs. Csokas plays a charismatic older photographer who wins the attention of the film's central teenage character. Jeffs labelled Csokas "extraordinarily courageous in the range of roles he tackles, and extraordinarily talented in that he brings each of them off.'"
Rain was invited to the directors fortnight at Cannes, and the LA Times reviewer labelled it, "sensual moody and stunning in its impact." Csokas also took a small role as elf lord Celeborn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Since Rain, Csokas has worked largely overseas. He made his American debut in 2002 in Vin Diesel action vehicle xXx, playing the Russian anarchist villain, but noted that some of the script's political subtleties had disappeared on the way to the screen."I enjoy playing the villain," noted Csokas in 2004. "Some of the best roles are the bad guys. It depends on the film how I play them."
Csokas made an impassioned inmate in the British-made Asylum (alongside Natasha Richardson), then joined fellow Kiwi export Karl Urban as one of the pursuers in Bourne sequel The Bourne Supremacy, after winning the role thanks to his "brooding and intense" qualities.
In 2004 Csokas spent five months riding horses and fighting in Weta-made chainmail, for Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott. For 2005's The Great Raid, a "study of male camaraderie in a prisoner of war camp", he lost weight and endured a form of boot camp; he also played romantic lead to an injured Charlize Theron in "slightly left of centre" sci-fi piece Aeon Flux. In amongst the big studio movies, Csokas starred as a state prosecutor hunting a serial killer (Malcolm McDowell) in the ambitious, Russian-set Evilenko.
The 2007 Australian drama Romulus, My Father won Csokas a best supporting actor nod at the AFI Awards, and another from the Film Critics' Circle of Australia. He played the best friend of the Romanian immigrant title character, who is struggling to raise a family in 50s-era Victoria.
Csokas concentrated on theatre roles in Australia for a couple of years before returning to the big screen in 2010, to play the French speaking partner of Sophie Marceau in The Age of Reason; he also joined Charlotte Gainsbourg for Cannes-chosen feature The Tree and had a small role in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.
But 2012 seemed to be the year where Csokas began appearing everywhere. He took leading roles in two television series: as a flawed but charismatic detective in four-parter Falcon, shot in Seville, and a crime boss romancing an undercover detective in American show Rogue.
In 2014 he was just as prolific, appearing in sequels to Sin City and The Amazing Spider-Man, working with director Darren Aronofsky on bibical tale Noah (as father to Russell Crowe), and playing lead villain once more in a movie version of The Equalizer, opposite Denzel Washington.
Two high profile television roles kept Csokas in the spotlight in 2015, and continued his trend of being cast as the villain. He played the sadistic General Gage in mini-series Sons of Liberty, set in the period leading up to the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, then dived into the role of Baron Quinn in martial arts adventure series Into the Badlands. Of his Badlands character, The Telegraph argued that Csokas "greedily gobbles up his Baronial role", citing him as the best part of the show.
In 2019 he returned to New Zealand to play the mysterious Robert in a TV adaptation of Eleanor Catton book The Luminaries, then later joined Charlotte Rampling for big screen family drama Juniper.
On the big screen, Csokas played the Dad in both family goes to Mongolia tale Burn Your Maps (opposite Vintner's Luck's Vera Farmiga) and 50s era mystery thriller Voices from the Stone (opposite Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke). He also acts in acclaimed interracial romance Loving, and Polish set Jim Carrey thriller True Crimes.
Profile updated on 31 May 2021
Steven Braunias, 'Release me' (Interview) - The Listener, 21 October 1995, page 26
Tom Cardy, 'Playing the bad guy' (Interview) - The Dominion Post, 7 May 2005, page B6
Rose Hoare, 'XXX-Man' (Interview) - Pavement No 55, October 2002, page 78
Peter Mitchell, Hit men' (Interview) - Sunday Star-Times, 15 August 2004
Marnie Wilton, 'Angelic Sexualilty' (Interview) - Stamp No 47, 1993
Jonathan Bernstein, 'Into the Badlands, review: 'bereft of character'' - The Telegraph website. Loaded 16 November 2015. Accessed 10 December 2015
Unknown Writer 'Csokas, Martin: XXX' (Interview) Urban Cinefile website. Loaded 12 September 2012. Accessed 20 May 2013
Unknown Writer, 'Marton Csokas tapped as villain in 'The Equaliser' UPI website. Loaded 18 May 2013. Accessed 20 May 2013
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