Anna Paquin cemented her place in Kiwi film history aged 11, after winning an Oscar for her first film, gothic romance The Piano. Since then the part-Kiwi part-Canadian actor has worked under a roster of stateside directors that includes Gus Van Sant, Spike Lee and Bryan Singer. In 2009 Paquin won a Golden Globe for starring as a telepathic Southern waitress in the first of seven seasons of HBO vampire hit True Blood.
Buckle up as we blast from the past Russ le Roq, gameshow host Paul Henry, tweenaged Kimbra and catwalk model Rach. Paul Casserly primes the collection: "pig out on these pre-fame Kiwis, gaze upon their fresh faces and remember the good times, before they were famous, before they became household names, movie stars, action figures and flavours of ice-cream."
When the last Lord of the Rings film won Academy Awards glory in 2004, jokes were made about running out of Kiwis to thank. Taika Waititi’s nap and Anna Paquin’s stutter have also made Oscar night news through the years. Along with the Oscar magnet that is the Weta effects empire, comes a largely unsung legacy of Oscar recognition. Celebrate some of the Kiwi winners and nominees via NZ On Screen's collection of Kiwis at the Oscars: from hobbits, heavenly creatures and whale riders to Two Cars, a woozy gold rush tale, an extreme ski documentary and more...
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.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Actor and casting legend Diana Rowan (who discovered both Anna Paquin and Keisha Castle-Hughes) turns her hand to writing and directing, with this darkly comic half-hour television drama based on an original story by Shonagh Koea. Veteran actor Helen Moulder (Fallout) gives a stand-out performance as a recently widowed woman, who arrives at a novel solution to well-meaning but hideous friends and family. The Wall is dedicated to director of photography Bayly Watson, who passed away soon after working on it.
This short Auckland-shot interview for arts show The Edge screened as Holly Hunter was appearing in two Oscar-nominated roles: The Piano and The Firm. Hunter discusses playing a hitman-hiring housewife, and joining Tom Cruise in The Firm. Weighing up past roles, she cherishes Raising Arizona and Broadcast News, but feels that The Piano is “the most original story that I've been involved in”, and Jane Campion is “one of the great directors.” In March 1994 Hunter would win an Oscar for Best Actress (alongside Piano Oscars for co-star Anna Paquin, and for Campion's screenplay).
From playing a human mule in The Piano, a dandy in Desperate Remedies and the hated Uncle Bully in Once Were Warriors, actor Cliff Curtis has appeared in a number of classic Kiwi movies. Curtis won acclaim and awards after starring as troubled chess champ Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse. He has also forged a busy international acting career, and moved into work as a producer, out of a desire to make Māori stories.
The Manawatu has provided fertile ground for New Zealand comedic talent, including producing six-person comedy group Facial DBX.
If the measure of success for a casting director is the subsequent success of the actors they pluck from the crowd, then Diana Rowan has certainly done time at the top of her field. She is the casting director who helped Anna Paquin, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Kerry Fox and Lucy Lawless on their way to international careers, while developing her own talents as a writer and director of short films.