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Anna Paquin in X-Men: Day of Future Past | ©Bagogames/Flickr
Anna Paquin in X-Men: Day of Future Past | ©Bagogames/Flickr

The 5 Best New Zealand Movie Stars You Need To Know

Picture of Ngarangi Haerewa
Updated: 5 January 2017
Whether it be Hollywood blockbusters, small indie productions, or hit US TV series, these five New Zealand movie stars have taken the acting world by storm. This list of high achievers promises much for the resurgence of New Zealand acting; an era lost after the death of great New Zealand actor Bruno Lawrence.

Anna Paquin

Picked up as a nine-year-old in Jane Campion’s 1993 New Zealand art-house classic The Piano, Anna Paquin’s career has been steadily blossoming ever since. At the age of eleven, Pacquin received an Oscar for best supporting actress as Flora McGrath daughter to Ada McGrath in The Piano. Playing under-study to heavyweights Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill set Paquin up for a bright future. She continued to flourish in her role as Rogue in the blockbuster franchise X-Men. With a glowing CV, Pacquin went on to land a role in the vampire TV series True Blood to which she won American fame and glory.

Cliff Curtis

Also getting a start as an extra in Jane Campion’s The Piano, Cliff Curtis, New Zealand’s pre-eminent actor has established himself as a dynamic fit for any role. While his first major role came in Lee Tamahori’s New Zealand feature Once Were Warriors, Cliff Curtis has gone on to create a glistening career for himself. He has starred alongside Bruce Willis in the iconic action franchise Die Hard, as well as Three Kings with George Clooney and Jamie Foxx. But perhaps his greatest international role came when playing a psychologist aboard the Icarus spacecraft in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. Yet this was to be later eclipsed by his role in the New Zealand feature film The Dark Horse, where he played the role of Genesis, a bipolar chess master. His most recent success is his role as Travis Manawa – a father struggling with his family for survival in a post-zombie apocalypse – in Fear the Walking Dead, the AMC spinoff of hit US TV show The Walking Dead.

Karl Urban

Like every other Wellingtonian, Karl Urban got a start with Peter Jackson in the world-famous Lord of the Rings franchise as Eomer. He then went on to feature in a number of American action films including The Bourne Supremacy, The Chronicles of Riddick and RED. Easily his biggest Hollywood role of late is his casting as Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy in the J.J Abrams rebooted Star Trek series, as well as Judge Dredd. With a CV quickly filling to the brim, Urban will be hoping to ‘live long and prosper’.

Zöe Bell

While she is not an out-and-out New Zealand movie actor, it is without a doubt that Zöe Bell is one of New Zealand’s Hollywood heavyweights. A trained stunt woman, Bell has had the assistance of none other than directorial giant Quentin Tarantino in forging a career for herself. It is easy to see how Tarantino would enlist the skills of a stunt woman for his many physically demanding roles. With major roles in Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2, Bell went on to forge an even greater partnership and friendship with Tarantino in the action-thriller Death Proof. Playing herself, Zöe Bell showcased her stunning physical acrobatics, as well as keeping her characteristic New Zealand accent.

Jemaine Clement

Known more for his role in New Zealand’s fourth most popular comedy/music duo Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement has used the reach of his HBO network to establish himself as a successful one-man show. Flaunting his comedy-chops in the Steve Carell comedy Dinner for Schmucks, Clement’s dynamism later came to be recognised by the men in black suits as he played lead antagonist Boris the Animal in Men in Black 3. He then returned to New Zealand to feature in the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows which performed outstandingly overseas. Recognising his talents and perhaps his greatest achievement to date, Clement voiced Fleshlumpeater in Spielberg’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s classic, The BFG.