Ian Watkin’s repertoire of roles ranged from a mad-eyed uncle to a big town lawyer.

Character actor Ian Watkin - whose face is familiar in roles which ranged from being the guy who drove a truck into the Shortland Street clinic to the train guard in the classic Crunchie television ad - has died. He was 76.

Watkin's rotund features and booming voice popped up in many Kiwi films throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.

He appeared in small roles in Geoff Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie and Utu, having earlier been part of the 1970s Blerta collective with Murphy and actor Bruno Lawrence and played a prominent role alongside Lawrence in Blerta's early film Wild Man.

As well as appearing in Roger Donaldson's Sleeping Dogs in 1977, Watkin played lawyer Kevin Ryan in the 1981 dramatisation of the Arthur Allan Thomas case, Beyond Reasonable Doubt.


Watkin's his most memorable big screen role came in 1992 with his portrayal of the mad-eyed bodgie, Uncle Les, in Peter Jackson's splatter zombie comedy Braindead. He also became a fixture on the New Zealand small screen, first appearing in early 70s serial drama Pukemanu as the small town doctor, later developing a speciality as villains in productions aimed at kids, like Nutcase and The Mad Dog Gang.

Watkin appeared as Jim in the television movie of Roger Hall's play Glide Time before it was adapted as the early 80s sitcom Gliding On, in which Watkin didn't appear. Though he played Jim again in the post Rogernomics 1998 Gliding On sequel Market Forces.

In 1995, Watkin appeared in Shortland Street as Ted Coombes, a truckie who drunkenly drove his rig into the clinic in that year's Christmas episode.

After supporting roles in the NZ-made Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and his final NZ film, Savage Honeymoon, Watkin went to live in Australia and became a wine merchant.

Watkin grew up in Greymouth before shifting to Wellington to begin acting while working as a magazine editor for the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation.