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.
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.
This film is about the redemption of Jake the Muss. It picks up the story after Jake has turned his back on his family (his wife has left him to escape the violence) and is up to his usual tricks in McClutchy's Bar. After one of his sons dies suspiciously in a gang fight, another sets out to find revenge, accompanied by young gang member Tania (Nancy Brunning). Scripted by Alan Duff and directed by Ian Mune, the film was the second-highest-earning NZ film of the 1990s, (eclipsed only by Once Were Warriors). It scooped most of the categories at the 1999 NZ Film & TV Awards.
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.
Among a number of high profile acting parts, Temuera Morrison is most indelibly associated in New Zealand with his 1994 role as Once Were Warriors’ abusive husband ‘Jake the Muss’. In 2013 he became the subject of a reality show. Made for TV One by producer Bailey Mackey, The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison follows the actor for six months as he attempts to breathe life into an acting career that has spanned 35 years, beginning as an 11-year-old. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel called the seven-part series “entertaining, good-hearted stuff, cut with an arch but sympathetic eye”.
From Jake the Muss to bounty hunter Jango Fett to talk show host, Temuera Morrison has played them all. In 2013 he played himself in this seven-part reality series, with cameras following over six months as he tried to revive his career. In this first episode, the easy-going actor has a birthday with his kids in hometown Rotorua, chats to his Hollywood agent about job possibilities from the rebirth of Star Wars, and faces up to learning an American accent. Later episodes saw him publicising hit film Mt Zion, and fielding an offer to direct.
Once Were Warriors opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori's hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats. Among a trio of backgrounders, Riwia Brown writes about adapting Duff's book for the screen.
Temuera Morrison was acting on screen at age 11. Two decades later he won Kiwi TV immortality as Dr Ropata in Shortland Street, and rave global reviews as abusive husband Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors. Since reprising his Warriors role in a well-regarded sequel, Morrison has starred in Crooked Earth, Tracker and Mahana, hosted a talk show and a variety show, and played Jango Fett in two Star Wars prequels.
Quite aside from being a talented and prolific actor, Ian Mune has made behind the scenes contributions to many New Zealand screen landmarks. Mune's writing career ranges from some of New Zealand's earliest television series to Goodbye Pork Pie. His work as director includes classics Came a Hot Friday and The End of the Golden Weather, and the hit sequel to Once Were Warriors.
Jim Moriarty's screen career has ranged from 70s soap Close to Home and Rowley Habib's The Protestors, to starring in mock-doco The Waimate Conspiracy and playing Dad in The Strength of Water. Committed to theatre as a tool for change, he has often worked with troubled youth (eg 2003 documentary Make or Break). Moriarty's directing work includes TV's Mataku, and a stage musical of Once Were Warriors.