Star Kiwi actors

New Zealand is the homeland of star Hollywood actors, including Russell Crowe, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin, Temuera Morrison, Cliff Curtis and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Anna Paquin

Anna Paquin was born in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1982, but moved to New Zealand with her family when she was four. She grew up in the Hutt Valley, north of Wellington.

Paquin was the first New Zealand actor to win an Academy Award, and is one of the youngest ever Oscar winners. She was just 11-years-old when awarded 'best supporting actress' for her role of Flora in The Piano - directed by Jane Campion in 1993.

While this early success brought Paquin immediate international fame, the young actress continued her schooling in the US before launching into a career that has included film, television and stage roles.

Anna Paquin - who now lives in Hollywood - won a Golden Globe award in 2009 for her role in the long-running HBO television series True Blood. Other films include: Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre, Steven Spielberg's Amistad, A Walk on the Moon, and the X-Men movies.

Cliff Curtis

Cliff Curtis retains strong ties to his Maori cultural identity, even though he's often mistaken for Latino, Arab or Mexican ethnicity.

Growing up in Rotorua, Curtis learned the traditional Maori fighting art of mau rakau and performed in Maori kapa haka song and dance groups. He also appeared as a break-dancer and in rock 'n' roll dance competitions.

After studying drama in New Zealand and Switzerland, Curtis' first feature film was The Piano (1993), directed by fellow Kiwi Jane Campion. Then followed Once Were Warriors (1994) directed by Lee Tamahori, and Whale Rider (2002).

Curtis hit the big time in Hollywood with three big movies released in 2001: The Majestic, Collateral Damage and Training Day. He starred as Wiremu in New Zealand director Vincent Ward's River Queen (2005). In 2014 Curtis returned to the big screen in the James Napier Robertson (NZ) directed film The Dark Horse and The Last Knights with Clive Owen and Morgan Freeman.

Since 2004, Cliff Curtis has been involved in promoting New Zealand's indigenous film-making industry through his independent film production company Whenua Films. The company produced Taika Waititi’s Academy Award-nominated Kiwi short film, Two Cars, One Night.

Keisha Castle-Hughes

Born to a Maori mother and an English-Australian father in Western Australia, Keisha Castle-Hughes was four when her family moved to New Zealand. She became a New Zealand citizen in 2001.

Castle-Hughes is the youngest person ever nominated for a 'best leading actress' Oscar. She received the nomination for her role as Paikea - a young Maori girl who challenges tribal culture - in Whale Rider (2002). Directed by Niki Caro, the film was set in a remote East Coast (North Island) village.

Whale Rider was Castle-Hughes' first film and acting role. She was chosen from a casting of 700 girls by the same agent who discovered Anna Paquin (The Piano, True Blood)

Other starring roles have included Mary in The Nativity Story (2006), Star Wars III (2005), and Niki Caro's The Vintner's Luck (2009). In 2014 it was announced that Castle-Hughes had landed a role in the world-wide television hit Game of Thrones.

Kerry Fox

Wellington-born Kerry Fox won international attention for her award-winning breakthrough portrayal of New Zealand author Janet Frame in the 1990 movie, An Angel at My Table (directed by Jane Campion).

Fox was nominated for an Australian Film Institute award for her lead role in Country Life, starred in British director Danny Boyle’s debut film, Shallow Grave and in 2001, won the Silver Bear for best actress at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival for her role in Intimacy.

She also appeared in the Academy Award-nominated Bright Star (2009), in which she played the mother of a young woman who was in love with English poet John Keats.

Now based in the UK, Kerry Fox has credited her Kiwi upbringing for giving her the tenacity and strength of character to continue working as an actress.

Lucy Lawless

Auckland-born Lucy Lawless studied German, French and Italian at Auckland University before beginning her television career.

Lawless made her Broadway debut as Rizzo in Grease in 1997 after a stage show producer saw her sing 'I'm An Old Cowhand' on the Rosie O'Donnell Show. She found fame as the warrior princess Xena in the popular television show Xena (1995 -2001). She also starred in another hit television show, Battlestar Gallactica, and the HBO television series, Spartacus, which was filmed in West Auckland (2009).

Television roles have continued to come in for Lawless who has had roles in US-based TV dramas Parks and Recreation (2012-2014) Jane Campion's Top of the Lake (2012) and Agents of S.H.E.L.D (2014)

Since singing with Smokey Robinson, Kenny Loggins and Dionne Warwick on 'Celebrity Duets', Lawless has sung at sold-out rock shows in the US and UK.

Lucy Lawless is married to producer Robert G. Tapert. They live in New Zealand, along with their two sons - Julius and Judah - and Lucy's daughter Daisy from her first marriage. For the past decade, she has been actively involved in the Starship Foundation which supports the Auckland children's hospital and is a vocal member of Greenpeace.

Martin Henderson

Aucklander Martin Henderson became a New Zealand celebrity through his role as Stuart Neilson in the television soap Shortland Street (1992 - 1995).

From Shortland Street, Henderson moved to Sydney in 1995. He starred in the Australian television series Sweat (with Heath Ledger), and was nominated for an AFI (Australian Film Industry) award for his supporting role in Kick (1999).

Martin Henderson moved to Hollywood then to New York (1997) where he studied for two years at the Neighbourhood Playhouse. Since then he has starred in blockbuster movies The Ring (2002), Little Fish (2005), Torque (2004), and Flyboys (2006).

In a break from acting, Henderson has also appeared alongside Britney Spears in the music video for her pop single Toxic.

Melanie Lynskey

New Plymouth-born Melanie Lynskey made her film debut as a teenage murderer in the Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures, filmed in Christchurch.

Lynskey has since forged a diverse international career in both film and television. She had a recurring role as a mysterious stalker on TV series Two and a Half Men and also appeared in films Up in the Air, The Informant, Away We Go, Flags of our Fathers, Sweet Home Alabama and as one of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters in Ever After. She played opposite George Clooney in Up in the Air, and with Matt Damon in The Informant!.

Melanie Lynskey married US actor Jimmi Simpson in 2007 at a vineyard in Queenstown. They live in Los Angeles.

Rhys Darby

Stand-up comedian Rhys Darby is best known for his role as Murray Hewitt in TV comedy series Flight of the Conchords, along with fellow Kiwis Bret MacKenzie and Jemaine Clement.

Darby, a former soldier in the New Zealand Army, started performing  professionally as a stand-up comedian in 1996. He has also appeared in Yes Man with Jim Carrey, and the UK film The Boat That Rocked.

Rhys Darby is married to fellow Kiwi Rosie Carnahan Darby, and has two children. They live in Auckland, New Zealand, and their company Awesomeness International produces live comedy shows.

Rose McIver

Rose McIver was born in Auckland in 1987, and showed her acting talent from a young age.

She landed her first commercial when she was two, appeared in Jane Campion’s The Piano aged three, and played Hercules’ daughter when she was four. Her television credits include Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, Maddigan’s Quest (TV3) and Rude Awakenings (TV One).

McIver also won a NZ Film and Television Award for best juvenile actress in a TV series for her role as Daphne in Xena, Warrior Princess.

In 2009, McIver made her big-screen debut in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Lovely Bones, where she played a pivotal role as Lindsey Salmon, younger sister of the main character, Susie. Since then she has enjoyed a recurring role in American TV show Once Upon a Time.

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe was born in Wellington, but his childhood was divided between New Zealand and Australia, where his parents worked as caterers on film and television sets.

After completing school in New Zealand, Crowe moved to Australia with the aim of pursuing a showbiz career. Within a year he was playing in the Australian production of Grease, then in 1980 began singing rock as Russ Le Roq, pumping out such prescient songs as 'I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando'. He also had a side gig as lead singer for 'Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts'.

Crowe's first major television role was in the Australian soap Neighbours in 1985; his first feature film was Prisoners of the Sun (1990). His award-winning career (27 wins and 37 nominations) includes: an Oscar for Gladiator (2000), a BAFTA for A Beautiful Mind (2001), The Insider (1999), Master and Commander (2003), Cinderella Man (2005).

Russell Crowe has two children with Australian Danielle Spencer. He is a cousin to former Kiwi star cricketers, Martin and Jeff Crowe.

Sam Neill

Sam Neill was born in Ireland to a Kiwi father and English mother, and moved to New Zealand at the age of seven.

An English literature graduate, Sam began his acting life in theatre before moving onto film. He first came to attention in the New Zealand political thriller Sleeping Dogs (1977), directed by Roger Donaldson. Sleeping Dogs was the first New Zealand movie to be released in the US.

New Zealand's most credited actor, Sam Neill has had a prolific career in theatre, film and television in the UK, US and Europe. He has received three Golden Globe nominations, and his film credits include: Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983), The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Piano (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), The Horse Whisperer (1998). His latest New Zealand project, a film adaptation of New Zealand author Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain was released in 2009. He plays the leading role in the Fox drama Alcatraz.

Sam Neill married Noriko Watanabe in 1989. They live in Central Otago, New Zealand, on their vineyard 'Two Paddocks', which also grows medicinal and cooking herbs.

Temuera Morrison

Rotorua-born Temuera (Tem) Morrison is from a Maori family well known in the New Zealand entertainment industry. His uncle Sir Howard Morrison, who died in 2009, was one of the country's best-loved singers.

After making his name locally in television soaps Close to Home and Shortland Street, Morrison shot to international attention with a gripping performance as Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors, a film adaptation of New Zealand author Alan Duff's novel. He renewed the role for the 1999 sequel, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.

Since then, Morrison has starred in several Hollywood films including: Barb Wire (1994), Speed (1997), Star Wars II (2002), Star Wars III (2005), Green Lantern (2011), and television series Spartacus (2011).

New Zealand projects have included River Queen (2005) and Rain of the Children (2008), both directed by fellow Kiwi Vincent Ward and filmed in remote New Zealand locations - Te Urewera forest and the Whanganui River - rich in Maori history, historic sites and deep native bush. He was also the presenter for Mataku, a series about Maori stories. In 2013 Morrison returned to the bag screen Mt Zion with fellow New Zealander Stan Walker.

In 2009, Temuera Morrison released a tell-all autobiography about his rise to fame, called From Haka to Hollywood.