Actor [Ngāti Awa]
Xavier Horan is best known for Westside — thanks to multiple seasons playing Phineas O'Driscoll, the largest and slowest of a group of career robbers. Horan was nominated for NZ Screen Awards for two of his earliest acting turns: as a yuppie with no time for family, in Toa Fraser film No. 2, and South Auckland TV drama The Market. The ex boxer has gone on to play criminals (Tai Scott on Shortland Street, the gangleader in Alibi), fathers (family movie Kiwi Christmas), sportsman Sonny Bill Williams (in TV film The Kick), and various shades of fighter (te reo action movie The Dead Lands, urban drama The Last Saint.)
As Māori we have so much depth to our culture and they’re going to get a taste of what we have to offer, and I think they’ll enjoy that experience. Our reo is out there and mau rākau is out there … I think when everyone sees it our people will be happy and proud. Xavier Horan on The Dead Lands, in an interview with Mana magazine, 21 August 2014
Toa Fraser's second English-set film (following 2008's quirky drama Dean Spanley) dramatises a real life siege at the Iranian Embassy in London, when gunmen held 26 people hostage in April 1980. Fraser and Dead Lands writer Glenn Standring take many angles on the tense six day siege: from politicians favouring a more aggressive approach than their lead negotiator, to the SAS team ready to storm the building, to BBC reporter Kate Adie (Bright Star's Abbie Cornish) covering events live on television. The film's international sales included a deal with Netflix.
In this family-friendly feature, Santa (Finnish actor Kari Väänänen) does a runner to a beach in Aotearoa days before his big night of the year, fed up with bureaucracy and brats. It falls to two Kiwi kids to get him out of the southern sun, and back to global gift giving. Director Tony Simpson (Kiwi Flyer) pitches the North Pole native against Kiwi biosecurity and a bickering camping family (including Step Dave's Sia Trockenheim). Sunday Star Times critic James Croot praised the trio of writers for delivering "a rare 21st century effort that evokes the memory of the great kidult dramedies."
TV3 series Outrageous Fortune had six memorable six seasons. Award-winning prequel Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safecracker Ted West (David de Lautour), and his fiery wife Rita (Antonia Prebble from Outrageous). Each episode of series one is set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two moves to the 1981 Springbok Tour; the third, set in 1982, introduced a teen Cheryl West. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real life events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the duo behind the original.
A prequel to classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune, Westside travels back in time to meet young Rita (Antonia Prebble), Ted (David de Lautour) and their son Wolf West, on the make in West Auckland. This first episode opens with Ted leaving Mt Eden prison, then sets him on a safe-cracking plot that is aided by the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Prebble played Loretta West in Outrageous, and first took on the role of Rita in flashbacks from season four. Devised by Outrageous creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, Westside won acclaim: "all the hallmarks of a classic", said Stuff.
Crime thriller The Last Saint puts Auckland’s underworld squarely in its sights. Beulah Koale (who played the killer in short film Manurewa) stars as teenager Minka, who gets caught up in drugs and romance while working for psychotic P-dealer (Joe Naufahu). The first movie directed by Shortland Street actor Rene Naufahu, this "searing local thriller" (Sunday Star-Times) was funded largely by private investors, as well as a Pledge Me campaign. Calvin Tuteao and Jared Turner are part of an impressive cast; the soundtrack includes contributions from P-Money, Six60 and Katchafire.
When the All Blacks beat France to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, it eased New Zealand's angst of more than 20 years without a title. It also created an unlikely hero in Stephen 'Beaver' Donald. A run of injuries led to a call-up for the fourth choice first five (he was whitebaiting when contacted). When Aaron Cruden was injured, Beaver came off the reserves bench and kicked a decisive penalty. Danny Mulheron's Moa award-nominated TV movie relives the reject-to-redemption fairytale. David de Lautour (Westside) plays Donald. This excerpt includes the kick itself.
Action movie The Dead Lands joins the short list of screen tales set in Aotearoa, before the pākehā. James Rolleston (star of Boy) plays Hongi, the son of a Māori chief. After the massacre of his tribe, Hongi sets out into the forbidden Dead Lands, hoping to enlist the help of a legendary warrior (Lawrence Makoare). The Anglo-Kiwi co-production marked new screen territory for director Toa Fraser (No. 2) and writer Glenn Standring (fantasy Perfect Creature). After debuting at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, The Dead Lands topped the Kiwi box office and won three Moa awards.
Hosted by Alex Tarrant (Filthy Rich) and Niwa Whatuira, this series for rangatahi featured interviews (from singers Ladi6 and Che Fu, to model Ngahuia Williams), and visits to festivals and events (eg the NZ DMC DJ champs, Waiata Māori Music Awards and Armageddon). Animated feature 'True Cuz' gave wry advice on everything from laying a hangi, to preparing for doomsday. Those behind the camera included former Mai Time presenter Olly Coddington (feild directing), and Toi Iti (producing). The series was made by TVNZ’s Māori department, and screened on Saturday mornings on TV2.
Shot in modern-day North Canterbury, Netherwood is the kind of back country thriller in which few of the locals can be trusted. Black-hatted drifter Stanley Harris (one time Shortland Street surgeon Owen Black) arrives in a small South Island town, and finds himself facing off against the local bully (Will Hall), the local beauty (Miriama Smith) and the local land baron (Peter McCauley). The behind the scenes documentary follows Hall and Black on a 20-stop 'Rural Roadshow', as they tour the finished low budget feature around the country.
This offbeat father and son feature was written by Scotsman Alan Sharp, and mostly filmed in the UK by a Fijian-Brit Kiwi. Lawrence of Arabia legend Peter O'Toole plays a stiff upper lip Englishman whose frosty relationship with his son warms after hearing an extraordinary tale of reincarnation from Reverend Dean Spanley (Sam Neill). Based on an Edward Plunkett novella, Toa Fraser's second feature won praise for its cast, and mix of comedy and poignancy, "intertwined to the last" (The Age). Spanley won a host of Qantas awards; GQ rated it their film of the year.
Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), the matriarch of a Fijian family living in Auckland, feels that the heart has gone out of her clan. She demands that her grown grandchildren put on a traditional feast, at which she will name her successor. The grandchildren — Soul, Charlene, Hibiscus, Erasmus, and Tyson — reluctantly turn up. But tiffs send the day into chaos. Nanna calls the whole thing off. This lovo-warmed love letter to his Mt Roskill hometown was the debut film for director Toa Fraser (Dean Spanley). It screened at many festivals; it won the World Cinema audience award at Sundance in 2006.
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.