Before he was a British MP Austin Mitchell spent time downunder, where he was a well known NZBC broadcaster in the 60s and published bestselling book The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise, a satirical commentary on all things Kiwi. In the first part of this three part series, he returns south to clock the changes. He begins at Otago University, where he lectured in the 60s, and notes a new Pākehā view of their history. Mitchell then talks wine with actor Sam Neill in Central Otago, and en route to Christchurch meets some uniquely 'mainland' entrepreneurs.
Smash Palace is a Kiwi cinema classic and launched Roger Donaldson's American career. Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard in the shadow of Mount Ruapehu. His French wife Jacqui is unhappy there and leaves him, taking up with Al's best mate. When she restricts Al's access to his young daughter, his frustration explodes and he goes bush with the girl, desperate not to lose her too. "There's no road back" runs the tagline. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film "amazingly accomplished".
“The funniest, liveliest, most exuberant film ever made in New Zealand”. So said critic Nicholas Reid, a year after Came a Hot Friday became 1985's biggest local hit. Though Billy T’s loony Mexican-Māori cowboy is beloved by fans, he is but one eccentric here among many — as two scheming conmen hit town, and encounter bookies, boozers, country hicks, nasty crim Marshall Napier, and Prince Tui Teka playing saxophone. Until the arrival of The Piano in 1993, Ian Mune and Dean Parker’s award-loaded adaptation remained NZ's third biggest local hit. Ian Pryor writes about the film here.
Roger Donaldson is notable for spearheading the New Zealand film renaissance with Sleeping Dogs (1977). He has been busy directing in Hollywood for much of the period since. Donaldson's first Kiwi story since acclaimed drama Smash Palace (1981) was Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) — the most successful New Zealand film on home soil until the arrival of Taika Waititi's Boy in 2010.
Actor, singer, and comedian Annie Whittle first won television fame on 70s comedy classic A Week of It. Since then she has presented a run of shows, had her own musical special, and acted alongside the likes of Billy T James, Miranda Harcourt, George Henare, and Anthony Hopkins.
Craig Hall's screen career kicked into gear when he played a proud Westie in 2000 big screen comedy Savage Honeymoon. Since then his CV has included telemovie Bloodlines and ongoing roles in The Strip, Outrageous Fortune and various Australian TV dramas. Amongst his movie roles are the cynical salesman in Anthony McCarten's Show of Hands, and starring as a commando in 2011 horror film The Devil's Rock.
Bruno Lawrence was a widely popular and prolific actor, musician and counter-cultural hero. His inimitable and charismatic screen presence was central to Kiwi legends Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Lawrence was also known for his influential and anarchic travelling theatre troupe, Blerta.
New Zealand born and raised, but better known for his work in Australia and the US, Alan Dale began his screen career with Kiwi soap Radio Waves. After eight years as patriarch Jim Robinson on Australia's Neighbours he was later cast in hit US show The OC and he established himself as the man to call for business magnates and authority figures: his CV includes 24, Ugly Betty, Lost, and Once Upon a Time.
Antony Starr has won multiple awards for being sly and idiotic at the same time, playing twin brothers on TV's Outrageous Fortune: gormless Van and cynical lawyer Jethro. The roles are distant cousins to an earlier part on Mercy Peak. A starring turn as a sheriff with a secret in Alan (True Blood) Ball’s US TV series Banshee, followed big-screen roles in drama After the Waterfall and Australian thriller Wish You Were Here.
Lee Tamahori worked his way up the filmmaking ranks, before debuting as a feature director with 1994's Once Were Warriors. The portrait of a violent marriage became the most successful film in Kiwi history, and won international acclaim. Between Warriors and 2016's Mahana, Tamahori has worked mainly overseas, where he has directed everything from The Sopranos to 007 blockbuster Die Another Day.