This week sees Temuera Morrison’s return to the big screen, taking the starring role in the Lee Tamahori-directed Mahana. NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop traces the actor’s journey from Rotorua teen to Hollywood.

Over the course of a near 45-year career, Temuera Morrison has established himself as one of our leading actors. From small screen to large, playing bar room brawlers to bounty hunters, his CV boasts an impressive range of work.

Morrison made his screen debut at age 11, after being spotted performing for tourists in his hometown of Rotorua. Playing the starring role in British TV series Rangi's Catch, he held his own amongst an experienced cast (including Ian Mune). The series was shot downunder by expat Kiwi director Michael Forlong, and shown in New Zealand cinemas in a shortened movie version.

See an excerpt from Rangi's Catch here:


Morrison's big screen break came in 1988, with the release of Never Say Die. Teaming up with Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy, he starred as a journalist on the run, scoring the role after Murphy was won over by the self-deprecating quality of his screen test.

Watch the trailer for Never Say Die here:


1992 saw the arrival of Shortland Street, and the now-legendary introduction of Morrison's character, Dr Hone Ropata. The debut episode marked the start of Morrison's three year stretch on the show, ensuring pop culture immortality thanks to a line he didn't even get to say: "You're not in Guatemala now, Doctor Ropata."

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Watch the debut episode of Shortland Street here:


In 1994, Morrison gave a career-defining performance, starring alongside Rena Owen, in the Lee Tamahori-directed Once Were Warriors. Critics raved at his turn as Jake the Muss, but Morrison argued that the intensity of Owen's performance meant lifting his game. "It's Beth's story. My role in it was to provide the misery." Both reprised their roles in sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?
Watch an excerpt from Once Were Warriors here:


In 2002, Morrison's Star Wars connection began, playing Jango Fett in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. In this episode of The Tem Show, he recounts his experiences in a galaxy far, far away.

See The Tem Show here:



Mahana sees Morrison reunited with Tamahori once again, playing another larger-than-life patriarch. The new role has won him positive early reviews, with the film opening in New Zealand cinemas this Thursday.

Watch the trailer for Mahana here:



You can see a more comprehensive selection of Temuera Morrison's work here.