In the early 1980s, director Roger Donaldson was part of a new generation of downunder screen talent, making their mark overseas. In this extended interview, the nominally Kiwi, Australian-born filmmaker talks about success, failure, famous actors, the talented Bruno Lawrence, and his big-budget remake of Mutiny on the Bounty. Donaldson describes how stateside reviews of Smash Palace paved his path to Hollywood, and talks with candour about his feisty first encounter with legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis – who invited him to take on The Bounty.
In a Hollywood studio, with This is Your Life creator Ralph Edwards prominent in the audience, Bob Parker surprises expat Nola Luxford with a high speed tour of her life. After outlining Luxford's early acting career in Hastings and Hollywood, Parker introduces radio and Olympic colleagues from her time as a pioneering US-based broadcaster — before memorable tributes from servicemen she looked after during World War II (while running a legendary New York organisation for Anzac servicemen). The so-called 'Angel of the Anzacs' would die in October 1994.
This short animated comedy offers up a pre-Wellywood tale of Hollywood coming down under. In the fictional West Coast town of Whatawhopa, a horror movie film crew has arrived to take advantage of the town's persistent rain. When the forecast fails, the town’s lazy fire fighters — “burning and yearning for a fire”— are finally sparked into action. The National Film Unit production was directed by Bob Stenhouse (Oscar-nominated for The Frog, the Dog and the Devil) who is clearly relishing the chance to go to town on scenes of rain, lightning, fire and monsters with droopy eyes.
In a lawless fuel wars future, marauders roam the wasteland looking for oil. Their malevolent leader Straker threatens his daughter Corlie; she’s rescued by loner Hunter and they harbour with eco-sensitive folk in the Clearwater Commune ... but not for long: there will be blood on the Central Otago plains! Following in the exhaust of Mad Max, the cult film was made during the 80s tax-break feature surge, with US director (Harley Cokliss) and leads flocking south during a Hollywood writers’ strike, and Kiwis as crew (“artists with chainsaws”) and supporting cast.
Constance centres on a young woman who attempts to escape the staid world of 40s Auckland, by embracing glamour and passion. After meeting a photographer, her aspirations of stardom are brutally fractured. Directed by Bruce Morrison, the movie echoes the style of Hollywood melodrama, while simultaneously critiquing the dream. Donogh Rees was widely praised in the title role as a protagonist who lives in a fantasy world, with one review describing her as “New Zealand’s answer to Meryl Streep”. New York's Time Out called the film "lush and exhilarating".
Nola Luxford was one of the first Kiwi actors in Hollywood and a fondly remembered wartime club hostess. This documentary — made before renewed attention thanks to Carole Van Grondelle's definitive bio Angel of the Anzacs — sees Luxford bypass troubled times and adoration from author Zane Grey to recall decades in America. These encompassed pioneering radio work in the 30s and 40s, a film career, and most poignantly, her legendary World War II Anzac club that welcomed 35,000 soldiers to New York. There are also clips from her 1925 silent film The Prince of Pep.
This 1993 interview from the first series of arts show The Edge screened while The Piano was in Kiwi cinemas. Earlier that year Jane Campion had become the first (and only) female director to share the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Here, she discusses the antipodean character of her next project ( The Portrait of a Lady) and the satisfaction of offering Nicole Kidman a role that isn’t “like a handbag to one of the male stars”. She also muses on working in Hollywood versus her hometown Sydney, and the influence of a New Zealand upbringing on forming her imagination.
Film director Roger Donaldson and motor racing legend Steve Millen both began making their mark in New Zealand, before making the move to California. The first Coming Home episode sees them at work in the USA, and visiting old haunts in Aotearoa. Donaldson shoots the effects-heavy Dante's Peak and prepares $100 million thriller Thirteen Days, while Millen hits the race track, in-between running his custom car parts company. Later he returns to the farm near Auckland, where his need for speed began on the family tractor. Donaldson heads to Auckland and Queenstown.
This pirates of the South Seas tale stars Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, The Fugitive) as rogue Bully Hayes, who helps a missionary save his kidnapped-by-savages wife. Produced by Kiwis Rob Whitehouse and Lloyd Phillips (12 Monkeys, Inglorious Basterds), the film was made in the 80s ‘tax-break’ feature surge and filmed in Fiji and New Zealand (with an NZ crew and supporting cast). John Hughes (Breakfast Club) and David Odell (Dark Crystal) scripted the old-fashioned swashbuckler from a Phillips story. It was released by Paramount in the US as Nate and Hayes.
Annie Goldson’s documentary examines the story of Kim Dotcom, the German-born hacker turned internet mogul who is holed up in a New Zealand mansion fighting extradition to the United States. In the US he’s wanted for alleged infringement of copyright laws committed by Megaupload, the online storage hub he founded. Goldson mines archive material (including the NZ police raid of his mansion) and interviews, to explore intellectual property, privacy, profit and piracy in the digital age. The film won rave reviews after its world premiere at multimedia festival South by Southwest.