Spotlight on NZ creativity and landscape

In Hollywood, the name New Zealand now shares star billing with the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Kiefer Sutherland, Tom Cruise and Sir Ian McKellen.

In Hollywood, the name New Zealand now shares star billing with the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Kiefer Sutherland, Tom Cruise, Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen.

Over the past decade, the country's reputation has developed as the perfect backdrop for some of Hollywood's finest movies.

Films like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, River Queen, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Whale RiderThe Last Samurai  and The Hobbit Trilogy have cast the spotlight on New Zealand's breathtaking scenery.

Director Andrew Adamson chose his home country to film key parts of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

"The South Island in New Zealand in particular is a very grand landscape, and there's a lot of unspoilt wilderness. There's very few places left in the world where you can point the camera and not see houses or hotels for 270 degrees in the frame," said Adamson.

Natural, untouched wilderness

While filming The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in New Zealand, esteemed actor Sir Ian McKellen poured praise on the country.

"In New Zealand there really is a natural untouched wilderness and it is overwhelmingly spectacular and moving," he said.

"I can't help thinking once the world has fallen in love with the landscapes captured, they’ll want to come see them for themselves."

While compliments paid by the likes of Sir Ian and Tom Cruise (who filmed The Last Samurai in the North Island region of Taranaki) are priceless to the New Zealand tourism industry, the landscape caught on celluloid does its own talking.

Trilogy impact

The impact of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies has been immense. 'The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook' was New Zealand's fastest-selling book, and international visitors continue to flock to Middle-earth film locations around the country, often only reached by jetboat, kayak, four-wheel drive and helicopter.

Movies shot in New Zealand are also bringing the world to some of the most remote corners of the country- like the Whanganui River, New Zealand's longest navigable waterway, and the backdrop for Kiwi director Vincent Ward's River Queen. Whangara, the tiny village on the North Island's east coast (the first place in the world to see the sunrise each day) has also seen an increase in visitors are the release of international acclaimed Whale Rider (2002).

River Queen and Whale Rider not only opened the door to lesser-known parts of New Zealand, but both movies dive deep into Maori culture. Maori are increasingly using tourism to uphold and preserve their culture, and Hollywood is doing its bit to help.