12 February 1941|
Worthing, West Sussex, England
|Died||10 June 1995
Wellington, New Zealand
Initially notable as a musician and founder of 1970s ensemble Blerta, he went on to well-regarded roles in several major films; his television work included starring in 1990s era Australian satirical series Frontline.
Lawrence spent most of his life in New Zealand, but also worked extensively in Australia. He was a renowned jazz and rock drummer, playing drums in many bands, including Max Merritt & The Meteors, Quincy Conserve, Blerta, and The Crocodiles. His last recording was with Bernie McGann, Larry Gales and Jonathan Crayford on "Jazz at the St. James" in 1989.
In the early 1970s, Lawrence founded Blerta ("Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition"). The multi and theatrical co-operative toured New Zealand and in parts of Australia. Blerta saw him performing alongside many people he would work with later as an actor, including director Geoff Murphy, and actors Martyn Sanderson and Ian Watkin.
Lawrence began acting in short films in the late 1960s. He won his first acting award, for television play Time Out, in 1971, although at this point music took up the majority of his time. By the late 1980s he had become one of New Zealand's most recognised actors on his own soil. Between 1981 and 1986 he was a much loved feature of many local films; he continued to act in occasional NZ productions through until 1993.
Lawrence's breakthrough movie role was relationship drama Smash Palace (1981). Playing the former race car driver who leaves with his daughter after the breakdown of his marriage, Bruno won an award at the Manila Film Festival, and acclaim from American critic Pauline Kael. Further acclaim came with his leading role as the lone scientist in Geoff Murphy's end of the world tale, The Quiet Earth (1985), for which Bruno also helped write the script. He had earlier acted in Murphy's Utu (1983), about the land wars of the 1860s, and cameoed in his breakthrough film Goodbye Pork Pie (1981). The Los Angeles Times compared his work in 1984 drama Heart of the Stag to that of "a young Brando".
Bruno's Australian roles included Anthony Hopkins movie Spotswood (aka The Efficiency Expert), Colleen McCullough adaptation An Indecent Obsession (playing a blind man), and 1986 miniseries The Great Bookie Robbery (playing gun loving robber Cracka Park). His last and, at least in Australia, best-known screen role was as devious, golf-loving TV producer Brian Thompson in 1990s satirical TV series Frontline. In 1995, during the filming of Australian feature film Così, which was scheduled to be his next role, Lawrence was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He died in Wellington, New Zealand, the same year.
A biography, Bruno: The Bruno Lawrence Story by Roger Booth, and television documentary Numero Bruno (2000, directed by Steve La Hood), cover his life and work. Lawrence is also featured in compilation documentary Blerta Revisited (2001, directed by Geoff Murphy).
- Blerta, "Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition"
This is a selection of notable appearances.
- Goodbye Pork Pie (1980) – Mulvaney
- Smash Palace (1981) – Al Shaw
- Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981)
- Warlords of the 21st Century aka Battletruck (1982)
- Utu (1983)
- The Quiet Earth (1985)
- An Indecent Obsession (1985)
- Pallet on the Floor (1986)
- Grievous Bodily Harm (1987)
- The Delinquents (1989)
- Spotswood (1992)
- "Quincy Conserve". Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- John Clare (11 May 2002). "Jazz at the St James: Gales, Lawrence, McGann and Crayford". SMH. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- "Numero Bruno (available for download)". NZ On Air. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
- Calder, Peter (19 July 2000). "Film Festival: Numero Bruno". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- Bruno Lawrence at the Internet Movie Database
- Bruno Lawrence on NZ On Screen
- Bruno Lawrence on australianscreen online