He's worked with some of Hollywood's biggest names, on some of the biggest movies but Arataki's Matt Bennett is a man who enjoys the simple life and prefers to fly under the radar.

Bennett has spent the past 15 years working as a stunt performer, taking on different roles in commercials, television shows and films and even feature films - but he's not one to boast about his impressive resume.

In fact, my meeting with the 43-year-old father of three has taken some encouragement and he tells me of his hesitation of being put in the spotlight because he's never really talked about his job before.

Bennett has worked with stars such as Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly and - despite being a Maori man - has even doubled Cate Blanchett. He has worked with directors such as Peter Jackson and his credits include films such as Underworld 3, King Kong, 10,000 BC and all three Hobbit movies.


With the help of good makeup, wigs and camera angles, he's transformed into "all ages and nationalities, especially young Maori boys like James Rolleston and Asians".

His work can range from a few hours to months at a time and can include mixing with famous actors and actresses on set.

"I get excited when I get the call up. The crew are always really good. You'd think most of the stunties are professional comedians - so there's always a good laugh. The food is actually one of my favourite things," Bennett said.

The lifestyle sounds pretty glamorous, but it's not all bright shiny lights.

It can also include putting yourself in dangerous situations, living from an unknown pay-to-pay and spending long periods away from friends and family.

"I'm lucky that the mother of my kids came to understand and accept my lifestyle and that she couldn't depend on me financially or to always be around for the them," he said.

"I'm also very lucky to have cheap accommodation at my Nanny and Koko's properties at Mount Maunganui and Whangamata when I'm not cruising around living in my van.

"Without those things - I couldn't do what I do. I don't know any Kiwi stunt performers who rely on stunt work in New Zealand to survive.

"I'd really like to give thanks to Janelle for doing her best to be the best mother for our kids. My Nanny and Koko for raising me and allowing me and other whanau to use and enjoy the houses and properties they worked hard for. And everyone who is or has been a part of my life ... most of all - my kids!"

Due to the unpredictability of his work and other pressures, there was a time when Bennett contemplated getting a 'real job' and living the 'normal life'.

However, through the audio teachings he listened to while travelling and living in his van, he learnt he had to be true to himself.

"As a casual stuntie you might only be required every now and then.

"I love treating my kids when I have the means to."

Bennett kind of seamlessly fell into this line of work.

Two of Bennett's B-boy mates told him they were going to an audition for the Power Rangers stunt team, so he tagged along.

During his time as a breakdancer he learned a lot of flips and acrobatics, which "was a big help at the audition".

"I did a few moves and managed to pull off the spinning back kick I learnt as a kid watching Bruce Lee and Kung Fu movies."

He said there were about 80 people who auditioned and he got shortlisted before securing a spot at the age of 27. He has worked on every series since 2002.

His friends didn't end up making the cut but they went on to be professional dancers for a top show in Las Vegas.

"When I was a kid I grew up with Kung Fu movies so it was always something I was interested in.

"I kind of knew I was going to do it from when I was a kid.

"I've been asked to work overseas but I'll miss my kids, I miss my kids even when I'm as near to them as Auckland, but at least I can travel to them quickly."

Bennett did travel to Australia to work as a stunt actor taking on the role of a Japanese soldier on the Mel Gibson-directed film Hacksaw Ridge.

However, he ended up suffering a hearing issue, ultimately stemming from years of surfing in the elements.

Being on set of the war film, he couldn't hear the director, he couldn't hear the bombs going off, he couldn't hear anything.

It was unsafe for him to be on set, not just for himself but for everyone else he was working with too.

The pay was going to be good but health and safety comes first.

The hearing issue, lack of work and other events led to him only working one day during a 15-month period. He managed to live off savings for most of it but eventually needed to apply for help from Work and Income New Zealand to get by for a few months.

"If I didn't have that hearing thing I would've been sweet."

For the most part, he spends his time like a travelling surf gypsy, sleeping in his van as close to the beach as possible so he can spend any free time surfing.

He said there were many roles that would fly him around the country and put him up in hotels but if not, his van was his humble abode. He didn't have a problem with it because he'd been doing it since he was 17.

"One my most enjoyable jobs was at Wellington. I stayed in my van for two months straight and managed to score some of the most fun waves of my life. It was awesome!"

He said despite getting offered a place to stay by his fellow stunt actors, he preferred his van.

"I like my own space ... I've been doing it forever."

As a stunt actor it's no surprise Bennett needs to keep relatively fit but says spatial awareness and timing are major.

In the early stages of his career he did a lot of acrobatics, freestyle-type gymnastics and high diving/bombing because he loved it - and it naturally kept him agile.

"I had to stand up on a pretty high building and jump onto a little target - made more difficult by what I had to jump off and how my body had to be positioned in the air ... I wouldn't do that now … actually I would if the money was good."

Most of the last eight years Bennett's loved being able to surf with his kids and whanau - a sport he first tried when he was about 10 and one he had represented the Bay of Plenty and New Zealand in.

"Most of my family surf and we all support the young ones with their surfing or whatever they're into.

His eldest daughter, now 18, used to compete and was one of the country's top girl surfers for a time. His middle daughter, aged 11, "loves floating around out there" and his youngest, a soon-to-be 10-year-old boy, is now "surf mad".

"Their mum also comes from a surfing/ocean family so our kids couldn't really get out of it."

"Up until the end of last winter, my boy was never that interested in surfing. He's way more natural at it than me."

His son, Tai, did show a bit of interest in the stunt stuff for a time so they performed a fight scene that can be checked out on YouTube by searching "Tai vs Dad".

"I get a real buzz out of teaching and making fight choreography. It's something I'd like to get into more. I haven't seen any fight scenes with a 6-year-old. It was fun and a good challenge."

Tai then went on and landed an action-acting role on Power Rangers.

"His mum and I were stoked but he didn't seem super fussed."

Feature film:
Mortal Engines – Stunt Performer 2017
Dynasty Warrior – Stunt Performer 2017
The Deadlands - Stunt Double (James Rolleston) 2015
The Dark Horse – Stunt Performer 2015
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – Stunt Performer 2011-2014
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Stunt Performer 2011-2013
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Stunt Performer 2011-2012
Tracker – Stunt Double (Temuera Morrison) 2009
Matariki – Stunt Performer 2009
The Warriors Way – Lead Stunt Double/Performer/Utility 2007 - 2008
Underworld 3 –Stunt Performer 2008
The Strength of Water – Stunt Double 2007
10,000 BC – Stunt Performer 2006
King Kong – Stunt Performer 2005
Fatal Contact – Stunt Performer 2006
Riverqueen – Stunt Performer 2004
Television film:
In a Flash – Stunt Double 2017
Resolve – Stunt Double and Stunt Actor 2017
Dear Murderer – Stunt Performer 2016
Harry – Stunt Double 2012
Johnny Kapahala – Stunt Performer 2007
Shannara – Stunt Performer 2015 and 2017
Harry – Stunt Performer 2012
Spartacus: War of the Dammed – Stunt Performer 2012
Spartacus: Vengeance – Stunt Performer 2011
The Almighty Johnsons – Stunt Performer 2010
Legend Of The Seeker – Stunt Performer 2009
Spartacus: Blood & Sand – Stunt Performer 2009
Outrageous Fortune – Stunt Double 2006-2009
Power Rangers – 12 Seasons – Stunt performer 2002-2017
Television commercials:
Instant Kiwi – Stunt double 2010
Coke a Cola – Stunt performer 2009
Nicorette – Stunt actor 'ninja 2009
Halifax Helping Hands – Stunt performer 2008
Short films:
Just 3 Girls – Stunt actor/Assistant stunt coo-rdinator - 2016
Frosty Man Meets The BMX Kid – Stunt performer 2010