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New Zealand Film Icon Geoff Murphy Dies at 80

Obituary: New Zealand Film Icon Geoff
Courtesy of New Zealand Film Commission

Iconic New Zealand film maker, Geoff Murphy, known for “The Quiet Earth” and work on “Dante’s Peak,” has died. He was 80.

Murphy’s death on Monday was confirmed by the New Zealand Film Commission. The organization called him “one of the leading figures in New Zealand cinema’s renaissance of the late 1970s and 1980s.”

A writer, director and producer, Murphy directed three films in that period – “Goodbye Pork Pie,” “Utu,” and “The Quiet Earth” – that were timely and locally-rooted. They are now considered as Kiwi classics.

Murphy’s creative career kicked off as a founding member of musical, theatrical troupe Blerta. His first film, “Wild Man” was largely developed and improvised by Blerta regulars. Murphy’s road movie “Never Say Die,” gave Temuera Morrison (“Once Were Warriors,” “Aquaman”) his first starring role.

“At the end of the 1980s, Geoff worked mainly in the U.S., directing films like ‘Young Guns II,’ and ‘Under Siege 2,’ while making meaningful contributions as a second unit director on films like ‘Dante’s Peak’ and Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’,” the NZFC said in a tribute.

The early part of the 21st century was spent piecing together skits, shorts and musical performances from the Blerta archives to create the documentary “Blerta Revisited” in 2001. Murphy’s first New Zealand feature film in fourteen years “Spooked,” a cyber-thriller starring Cliff Curtis, was released in 2014.

Murphy was widely recognized by government and the New Zealand arts community. He collected a lifetime achievement award at the Moa New Zealand Film Awards, was named as one of twenty arts icons by the Arts Foundation, and in 2014 was awarded an New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s New Year Honors. In 2015 his autobiography, “A Life on Film” was published by Harper Collins.