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.
Dunedin-born Alan Dale always had his sights set on brighter lights: first Auckland, then Sydney, then Los Angeles, where he now lives. He started out performing in amateur theatre, but came to professional acting late, taking a DJ slot on Radio Hauraki in his late 20s, followed by a role on the Hauraki-inspired series Radio Waves. Moving to Australia, Dale appeared on The Young Doctors, before playing the fondly remembered solo father, Jim Robinson, for almost a decade on Neighbours. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has often played bad guys, authority figures and moguls on series including ER, Lost, NCIS, 24, The X Files and Entourage, plus high profile roles on The OC and Ugly Betty, and parts in feature films including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Dale has returned to New Zealand for only two series: Plainclothes and Auckland Daze. He also appeared in Flight of the Conchords on HBO, playing the Australian Ambassador.
Geoff Murphy was the teacher and trumpet player who got New Zealand yelling in the movie aisles. After boning up on filmmaking while touring on the Blerta bus, Murphy turned out a triple punch of local classics: 1981 blockbuster Goodbye Pork Pie, historical epic Utu and last man on earth tale The Quiet Earth. The director worked with everyone from Wild Man Bruno Lawrence to Mickey Rourke; from varsity safecrackers to hobbits, with time for nail-biting hijinks in Wellington railyards and atop the LA Metro train.
In his early career, feature film director Roger Donaldson put himself in risky positions while filming adventure documentaries, including The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary. With his friend Ian Mune, he created Winners & Losers, a landmark series of dramas based on stories by New Zealand writers, which in turn inspired the pair to adapt CK Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream into feature film Sleeping Dogs. The major turning point in Donaldson’s career was his feature Smash Palace, which screened at Cannes and earned rave reviews. Since Smash Palace, Donaldson has thrived in Hollywood, working with notable actors including Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Pierce Brosnan. He returned to New Zealand to make the Burt Munro biopic The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins.
As a high schooler, Melanie Lynskey came to international attention in her first screen role, playing Pauline Parker in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-nominated feature film Heavenly Creatures. Since then, the New Plymouth-born, Los Angeles-based actress has gone on to work with many of Hollywood’s biggest names, playing Drew Barrymore’s step-sister in Ever After, Matt Damon’s wife in The Informant, and George Clooney’s sister in Up in the Air. She has also had a scene-stealing guest role as Rose on the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Two and a Half Men. Lynskey has returned to New Zealand to star in feature films Snakeskin and Show of Hands.
After making his screen debut in 1988 on Margaret Mahy TV series Strangers, actor Martin Henderson spent three years on Shortland Street playing Stuart Nielsen, then moved on to Australia and later the United States. Since then he has acted everywhere from India to Sweden, and in everything from horror (The Ring) to musicals (Bride and Prejudice) to TV’s House MD. His work as Cate Blanchett’s disabled brother in drama Little Fish saw him nominated for an Australian Film Institute supporting actor award. Variety magazine called his performance 'a revelation'.
Temuera Morrison is best known for one of New Zealand’s most graphic film performances: Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors. He reprised his role in the redemption sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Before the Warriors films, Morrison played Dr Hone Ropata in the long-running soap Shortland Street. He has appeared in a range of TV productions and a number of Hollywood films including the Star Wars franchise.
He learnt kapa haka as a child. He learnt to smoulder on Shortland Street. He punched a country in the guts with Once Were Warriors. Temuera Morrison has starred in Māori westerns, adventure romps, and cannibal comedies. In the backgrounder to this special collection, NZ On Screen editor Ian Pryor traces Temuera Morrison's journey from haka to Hollywood.
The decade of fondue and flares also cooked up colour television. Our black and white living room icons — from Selwyn Toogood to Space Waltz — melted into a Kiwi kaleidoscope of Top Town, Grunt Machine, and Close to Home. And 'our stories' and rights fights — boks, hikoi, nukes and 'nam — echoed onscreen (Sleeping Dogs, Tangata Whenua). Ready to roll?
Actor Bruno Lawrence rounds out a handful (Buck, Billy T, The Topps, Crumpy) of Kiwi icons who have achieved sufficient mana to be recognised by an abbreviated name. His charisma was key to ground-breaking films, Smash Palace, The Quiet Earth and Utu. Jack Nicholson reputedly had Bruno envy. This collection celebrates his inimitable performances and life.