Acclaimed Kiwi film director Geoff Murphy dies

Publish Date
Tuesday, 4 December 2018, 2:29PM
NZ Herald

NZ Herald

Acclaimed Kiwi film director Geoff Murphy has died.

Murphy, 80, was a leading figure in the fledgling New Zealand film industry in the 1970s - directing classic films including 1981's Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu and The Quiet Earth.

His career later took him to Hollywood, where he directed blockbusters including Young Guns II and the Steven Seagal train thriller Under Siege 2. Murphy also worked as a second unit director on Dante's Peak (directed by fellow Kiwi Roger Donaldson) and on Sir Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings.

The NZ Film Commission said it was "very saddened" to confirm Murphy had died yesterday.

In 2014 Murphy was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film. He had previously been honoured as one of New Zealand's 20 greatest living artists when named an Arts Icon by the Arts Foundation.

Murphy was noted for his skill at action, knockabout comedy, and melding genres. He spent a decade directing in Hollywood before returning home, NZonscreen says in its biography of him.

He was married to filmmaker Merata Mita until her death in May 2010.

Murphy has also been a scriptwriter, special effects technician, schoolteacher and trumpet player.

He was a founding member of the hippy musical and theatrical co-operative Blerta, which toured New Zealand and Australia performing multi-media shows in the early 1970s.

Several Blerta members followed Murphy into film work - including the band's drummer Bruno Lawrence, who starred in Utu and The Quiet Earth.

Wellington filmmaker and friend Gaylene Preston said Murphy was a pioneer

"He took everybody with him. In those days there was very little in the way of equipment in New Zealand. It was Geoff who helped everyone else make their films."

His best works were Goodbye Pork Pie and Utu, Preston said.

"I think it is hard to understand what a terrific, cultural earthquake Pork Pie was. A film New Zealanders went to the movies, to see their own country and their own work.

"The film Utu was a great piece of world cinema.

"He is a towering figure and we have lost a great voice. Go well, Geoff."

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission.


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