Geoff Murphy, the man who made the classic road movie Goodbye Pork Pie in 1981, is now officially one of New Zealand's 20 greatest living artists.
The Wellington-born and based film-maker was last night presented with the Arts Foundation's Icon Award, with opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, painter and writer Jacqueline Fahey, architect Ian Athfield and artist and heritage advocate Cliff Whiting.
The biennial award is limited to a living circle of 20 New Zealand artists and past recipients include Janet Frame, Ralph Hotere, Sir Peter Jackson and Margaret Mahy.
Arts Foundation chairwoman Fran Ricketts said the awards recognised the "extraordinary talent we have in our country".
Reading the citation for Murphy's award, Film Commission founding chairman Bill Sheat said: "A little yellow mini's road trip to Invercargill changed New Zealand's film industry forever and helped make the name of this highly accomplished film-maker.
"His first film, however, was a 30-minute drama called Tankbusters in 1969 which played on television in New Zealand and Australia.
"A founder of the legendary music group Blerta, this icon's feature Utu has just been digitally re-mastered and recently opened Wellington's New Zealand Film Festival programme. Another Kiwi classic, The Quiet Earth, gained an international cult following.
"Returning to New Zealand after two decades in Hollywood making films with names such as Mick Jagger and Steven Seagal, he was second unit director for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. ..."
Last night, Murphy jokingly told the Weekend Herald: "It's been a while coming".
But he added it was a pleasant surprise and expressed delight at the positive reviews for Utu from a new generation.
The award citation for Dame Kiri Te Kanawa said she sang the British national anthem at Buckingham Palace opening celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation last month.
This year she will appear in Downton Abbey playing Australian Diva Dame Nellie Melba, and commitments in 2014 include a guest appearance during the Covent Garden Opera Season.
Ian Athfield, of Wellington, established an architecture practice in 1968 which won more than 100 design awards.
He serves on the board of the NZ Historic Places Trust and was made NZ Institute of Architect's Ambassador to Christchurch after the 2010 earthquake to advise and co-ordinate the rebuild and restoration.
Jacqueline Fahey, of Auckland, was known for her paintings of domestic and suburban life and is the only survivor of a group of renowned Canterbury women artists that included Rita Angus and Evelyn Page.
She also wrote the novels Cutting Loose and Something for the Birds and, last year, Before I Forget.
Cliff Whiting, of Northland, had for 50 years contributed to art education and administration, marae building and renovation, and had developed a style of contemporary Maori art based on his Te Whanau-a-Apanui tribal traditions.
Icon Award List
• Barbara Anderson*
• Ian Athfield
• Raymond Boyce
• Len Castle*
• Jacqueline Fahey
• Janet Frame*
• Marti Friedlander
• Maurice Gee
• Peter Godfrey
• Patricia Grace
• Alexander Grant*
• Dr Pakariki Harrison*
• Ralph Hotere*
• Sir Peter Jackson
• Russell Kerr
• Margaret Mahy*
• Sir Donald McIntyre
• Milan Mrkusich
• Donald Munro*
• Geoff Murphy
• Don Peebles*
• Don Selwyn*
• Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
• Diggeress Rangituatahi Te Kanawa*
• Hone Tuwhare*
• Greer Twiss
• Sir Miles Warren
• Gillian Weir
• Ans Westra
• Cliff Whiting
• Arnold Manaaki Wilson*
*deceased (18 living, 10 dead, total of 31 honoured)