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Colleagues and friends remember Geoff Murphy

From Nine To Noon, 9:25 am today

Geoff Murphy

Geoff Murphy in action Photo: Supplied

Pioneering filmmaker Geoff Murphy, has died aged 80.

He was one of the forces of nature behind the modern New Zealand film industry and is best remembered for the movie Utu and the road movie with a special place in New Zealanders' affections, Goodbye Pork Pie.

A rebel who wasn't afraid to voice his strong opinions he became famous for the action sequences in his films.

His co-writer on Goodbye Pork Pie, Ian Mune said he knew that Murphy was on the way out.

"Everybody knew it was coming including Geoffrey. He'd been on dialysis for a couple years. It's a horrible process. I asked him if he'd thought about stopping dialysis and going to sleep. He said "oh no, I've got to be 80, I've got to hit my 80th'.

"Well he did make his 80th, and it was a really good night. Geoffrey stuck it right through to midnight which is pretty damn good."

Mune said that the plug was pulled on his treatment about a week ago.

Mune was originally meant to be the director of Goodbye Pork Pie but had to pull out when another project came along.

"They'd planned every stunt and every car chase but didn't have an actual story. So that's where I came in."

He said Murphy was always coming up with unexpected and innovative ideas.

"He would follow the logic way beyond where anyone else would take it," he said.

Kelly Johnson, the lead actor of the film, said he was reeling in shock upon hearing Murphy had died.

"I knew it was going to happen and I was going to try visit him in a couple weeks," he told Morning Report.

Johnson said Murphy was "one of the brightest people I've ever met."

"He was like the captain of the ship. You'd go into war and die for it."

In the 1980s, Geoff became frustrated with the lack of funding in New Zealand and decided to leg it to Hollywood.

"The funding [in New Zealand] was not big. He was struggling to get projects off the ground and thought 'oh hell with this', and went off to Hollywood," Mune said.

"The invitations were there after Utu and certainly after quiet earth.

"He was a bit pissed off with New Zealand. It was just so damn hard. It still is," he said.

Actor Anzac Wallace, who starred in Utu as the Māori warrior Te Wheke, said he was "broken" on hearing the news.

"I'm so saddened," he told Morning Report.

"That man rocked up on my doorstep with a durrie hanging out of his mouth asking me if I wanted to play in a movie.

"I always took these sorts of invitations as a joke. Who wants to know a thief? Who wants to know a burglar? Who wants to know an ex-prisoner? Geoff did. He was genuine.

Wallace said that working on Utu taught him what it meant to be a Māori. Today, he works with inmates.

"I'm in the jails because of Geoff Murphy. He made me a different man. A man who could be trusted."

"I'm broken. I'm really broken" - Zac Wallace duration 5:33
from Morning Report

Click a link to play audio (or right-click to download) in either
MP3 format or in OGG format.

Filmmaker Gaylene Preston said Murphy invented a new Kiwi culture which was anti-establishment, not polite and good fun.

"If you wanted to make a film you first had to build the gear you wanted to make it with," she said.

"He wasn't just an innovator in terms of storytelling although he was clearly that, but he was an engineer, he was a musician, he and Bruno Lawrence gathered people around them for the great travelling circus that was Blerta.

"He lived, breathed, thought, ate film and that was all his life."

She said he moved to America with his then wife, fellow filmmaker Merata Mita, and became successful in Hollywood.

He returned to New Zealand, getting a call from Peter Jackson to work on The Lord of the Rings.

He told RNZ in 2009 it never occurred to them to make anything other than New Zealand films.

"The idea of us making a British film or something like that was totally absurd. So New Zealand's national cinema was what we were always trying to achieve.

"We kept being assured that was impossible of course. So it's always been a hell of a struggle."

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