The Diary: League legend tackles Maori action movie

Koopu finds sports training comes in handy for warrior role.

Wairangi Koopu and Toa Fraser on the set of The Dead Lands.
Wairangi Koopu and Toa Fraser on the set of The Dead Lands.

League star Wairangi Koopu has made his acting debut in Toa Fraser's action movie The Dead Lands playing a Maori warrior in pre-European New Zealand, and he says the film - which uses authentic weaponry, dialogue and a traditional hand-to-hand combat style called mau rakau - will be a showcase of Maori history for the world.

"It was a fantastic experience to be involved in the project," Koopu told The Diary. "I feel very spoilt and proud to be a part of it. As an emerging speaker, the language was a real treat because it's all 16th-century te reo. It's very in-depth and poetic, almost Shakespearian. It will showcase what Maori were like in that period of history."

Koopu, who knows Fraser through former Warriors teammate Logan Swann, says the role called for physical endurance.

"There was a lot of fighting with ancestral weaponry. I loved it. Coming from a physical background with league, it was good to play rough.

I picked up a few cuts and bruises."

Koopu plays a member of an elite tribe of warriors. It's his first foray into acting, and, while he is no stranger to television studios (he's a regular on Maori TV sports show Code), he says the movie production set with a vast number of crew is another ball game.

He joins an impressive list of stars, including James Rolleston, George Henare, Rena Owen and Lawrence Makoare, who appeared in Die Another Day.

The film is about a Maori chieftain's son (Rolleston) who sets out to avenge his father's murder and bring peace and honour to the souls of his loved ones after his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery.

Tainui Stephens, a producer on the film, says Koopu, a long-time friend, was an obvious choice to play a Maori warrior.

"He has the right look, and the capacity with the Maori language. And he was physically capable for the role, which requires endurance. There's a lot of running and fighting in the movie and it's shot in a lot of external locations with the various elements," Tainui said.

Production on The Dead Lands wraps this month with a release date expected at the end of the year.

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Questions of the week

1. Did Winston Peters visit the Dotcom mansion for secret meetings? Don Brash and Russel Norman have confessed to get-togethers in Coatesville, but Peters was playing coy yesterday when The Diary phoned. Rumours that he went there three times are "false", he says, but he refused to specify if he'd been there at all.

2. Did the Seven Sharp panel look bare without Jesse Mulligan this week? Fear not, the funnyman returns Monday. He's been off work with a "hideous facial skin infection", he told The Diary.

3. Tuning into Ali Mau on Monday? She hopes you will. The former TVNZ face has a lot riding on her foray into radio. Her new employer, RadioLive, believes she'll quickly make her mark alongside Willie Jackson on the midday show. RadioLive hopes, too, it will be a distraction from "the Tamihere business". Of course, the big question is whether the station's key target demographic for that time-slot (blue-collar working males) will tune in to hear Mau's sweet shrills.

4. Are Shane and Kalon Dobbin New Zealand's new favourite sporting brothers? Speed-skater Shane, who is carrying the New Zealand flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Russia later today, is coached by brother Kalon. Palmy's favourite sons.

New Zealand snowboarders create a striking tableau in the Olympic rings at Sochi, Russia.
New Zealand snowboarders create a striking tableau in the Olympic rings at Sochi, Russia.

5. It's chilly in Sochi, but how cool do our female snowboard slopestyle athletes look posing in the Olympic rings?

6. Is Keisha Castle-Hughes heading to Hollywood for pilot season, again? "Ten days till I can flip the bird at Auckland from the sky," she tweeted this week, before asking if someone could pay her library bill. Keisha says she's flying to Los Angeles before heading to Miraflores, Peru, to visit family. Once nominated for an Oscar, her acting career has stalled lately. The Almighty Johnsons was canned and her two latest movies, both small independent Kiwi productions, are yet to premiere. Her longstanding agent Gail Cowan told The Diary she no longer represents her. Keisha and husband Jonathan Morrison, a landscaper/aspiring screenwriter, have been living at his parents' house on the North Shore, but a new Hollywood movie or TV series could be just what Castle-Hughes needs to reinvent herself.

7. What do you call a bag of pilchards hurled at the Prime Minister? "A waste of bait," says keen fisherwoman Paula Bennett.

David Shearer, in the driving seat of a classic MG, with passenger Trevor Mallard who tweeted the picture.
David Shearer, in the driving seat of a classic MG, with passenger Trevor Mallard who tweeted the picture.

8. Middle-aged men in a sports car. Predictable? Try telling that to Labour backbenchers David Shearer and Trevor Mallard.

9. Will Alison Pugh take the reins of Breakfast permanently alongside Rawdon Christie? TVNZ says no decision has been made and Pugh has another week of auditioning ahead. But word is she's the inside favourite.

10. How's this for getting caught in a Twitter rip? Radio DJ Polly Gillespie was criticised on social media this week for comments she made about Asian people on TV reality show Piha Rescue. "Seriously 'stay away from Piha' flyers need to be given to people getting off the plane from Asian continent. #Pihahatesyoubro," she tweeted. Gillespie has since apologised.

11. Will you vote for Shorty St heartthrob Cameron Jones in the iBachelor of the year competition? Hello, abs!

12. How badly bruised was Mayor Len Brown's ego after the snub by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on his trip to Auckland? The American contingent advised "Mayor Bloomberg would not be available" for a meeting with the troubled civic leader of Auckland. Ouch. However, there were no such problems dining with Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel.

- NZ Herald

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