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The Making of Smash Palace

Short Film (Full Length) – 2004

This documentary tells the story behind Smash Palace. The iconic 1981 drama had a shaky start; the NZ Film Commission found an early draft "too personal". Cast and crew share stories from the central North Island set and recall Donaldson's improvisational approach, while director Geoff Murphy admires Donaldson's team building skills. Donaldson's casting proved crucial to the film's success: actors Greer Robson, Keith Aberdein and Anna Maria Monticelli all come in for praise. As for the part of tormented car yard owner Al Shaw, the "fearless" Bruno Lawrence was Donaldson's only choice. 

I think it's really significant actually, because I think we seem to struggle to do contemporary drama, we hide behind the caper genre, which we seem to have done to death. In fact we've almost reinvented it ourselves. We hide behind all kinds of things as a film industry and I think that's maybe to do with how old we are. But I think Smash Palace is a bit of a blimp, a bit of an odd aberration.
– Production Manager Dorthe Scheffmann on the place of Smash Palace in New Zealand film history

Produced by

Roger Donaldson


Roger Donaldson