Clifford Vivian Devon Curtis
27 July 1968
Rotorua, New Zealand
|Relatives||Toby Curtis (uncle)|
Clifford Vivian Devon Curtis (born 27 July 1968) is a New Zealand actor. His film credits include Once Were Warriors (1994), Three Kings (1999), Blow (2001), Training Day (2001), Whale Rider (2002), Sunshine, Live Free or Die Hard (both 2007), The Dark Horse (2014), for which he won the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actor, and Doctor Sleep (2019). Curtis had television series roles on NBC's Trauma and ABC's Body of Proof and Missing. From 2015 to 2017, he portrayed Travis Manawa on the AMC horror drama series Fear the Walking Dead.
He is the co-owner of the independent New Zealand production company Whenua Films.
Curtis was born on 27 July 1968 in Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty. He is one of eight children, the son of an amateur dancer. Curtis is of Māori descent; his tribal affiliations are Te Arawa and Ngāti Hauiti.
As a boy he studied mau rākau, a traditional Māori form of taiaha fighting, with Māori elder Mita Mohi on Mokoia Island, which nurtured his abilities as a performer in kapa haka. Curtis later performed as a breakdancer and competitively in rock 'n' roll dance competitions. He received his secondary education at Edmund Rice College, Rotorua. Curtis graduated from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School in 1989 with a Diploma in Acting.
Curtis started acting in amateur productions of musicals Fiddler on the Roof and Man of La Mancha with the Kapiti Players and the Mantis Cooperative Theatre Company, before attending the New Zealand Drama School and Teatro Dimitri Scoula in Switzerland. He worked at a number of New Zealand theatre companies, including Downstage, Mercury Theatre, Bats Theatre, and Centre Point. His stage roles include Happy End, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, The Cherry Orchard, Porgy and Bess, Weeds, Macbeth, Serious Money, and The End of the Golden Weather.
His first feature film role was a small part in the Oscar-nominated Jane Campion film The Piano. He went on to win attention in Once Were Warriors, one of the most successful films released on New Zealand screens; the line "Uncle fucken Bully" referring to Curtis's character spoken by "Jake the Muss", played by Temuera Morrison, became one of New Zealand film's most memorable and quoted lines, as well as being part of the "Kiwiana" trend. He played Kahu in the short-film Kahu & Maia, a contemporary depiction of a Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Rongomaiwahine legend. He played a seducer in the melodrama Desperate Remedies. In 2000 Curtis starred as family man Billy Williams in Jubilee, before playing father to the lead character in the international hit Whale Rider.
In 2004 with producer Ainsley Gardiner, Curtis formed independent film production company Whenua Films. The goals of the company are to support the growth of the New Zealand indigenous film-making scene, and support local short filmmakers. He and Gardiner were appointed to manage the development and production of films for the Short Films Fund for 2005–06 by the New Zealand Film Commission. They have produced several shorts under the new company banner, notably Two Cars, One Night, which received an Academy Award nomination in 2005, and Hawaikii by director Mike Jonathan in 2006. Both short films circulated through many of the prestigious international film festivals like the Berlinale.
At the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Miramax Films bought US distribution rights to relationship comedy Eagle vs Shark, the first feature film directed by Taika Waititi. Waititi's follow-up feature Boy, also from Whenua Films, went on to become the highest grossing New Zealand film released.
In 2014, Curtis played the lead role in The Dark Horse, which the National Radio review called "one of the greatest New Zealand films ever made." The New Zealand Herald praised him for his "towering performance" as real-life Gisborne speed chess player and coach Genesis Potini, who died in 2011. Curtis studied chess and deliberately put on weight for the role.
Curtis has appeared in the films Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead (1999), Three Kings (1999), the drug drama Blow (2001) with Johnny Depp, Training Day (2001), Collateral Damage (2002), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), Sunshine (2007), Push (2009), and Colombiana (2011). In M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender (2010), he played the main villain, Fire Lord Ozai. Curtis portrayed Lt. Cortez in the film Last Knights (2015) and Jesus Christ in the film Risen (2016).
In the NBC TV drama Trauma, he played daredevil flight medic Reuben "Rabbit" Palchuck. Curtis was cast as Travis Manawa, a leading male role of the AMC TV series Fear the Walking Dead, the spin-off of The Walking Dead.
When asked about being an "all-purpose ethnic" actor, he said, "It's been a real advantage, I love being ethnic, I love the colour of my skin. There are limitations in the business, that's a reality, but I've been given such wonderful opportunities."
|Denotes works that have not yet been released|
|1994||Kahu & Maia||Kahu|
|1994||Once Were Warriors||Uncle Bully|
|1994||Rapa Nui||Short Ears|
|1998||Six Days, Seven Nights||Kip|
|1999||Three Kings||Amir Abdulah|
|1999||Bringing Out the Dead||Cy Coates|
|1999||The Insider||Sheikh Fadlallah (as Clifford Curtis)|
|2001||The Majestic||The Evil But Handsome Prince Khalid|
|2002||Collateral Damage||Claudio 'El Lobo' Perrini|
|2003||Runaway Jury||Frank Herrera|
|2004||Heinous Crime||Pizza Delivery Man|
|2006||The Fountain||Captain Ariel|
|2007||Live Free or Die Hard||FBI Deputy Director Miguel Bowman|
|2009||Crossing Over||Hamid Baraheri|
|2010||The Last Airbender||Fire Lord Ozai|
|2012||A Thousand Words||Dr. Sinja|
|2014||The Dark Horse||Genesis Potini|
|2015||Last Knights||Lieutenant Cortez|
|2016||Risen||Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth|
|2018||The Meg||James 'Mac' Mackreides|
|2019||Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw||Jonah Hobbs|
|2019||Doctor Sleep||Billy Freeman|
|2022||Muru||Sergent 'Taffy' Tawharau||Post-production|
|2022||Avatar: The Way of Water||Tonowari||Post-production|
|2023||Meg 2: The Trench||James 'Mac' Mackreides||Filming|
|1991||Under Cover||Zip||Television film|
|1994||Hercules in the Underworld||Nessus|
|1995||Mysterious Island||Peter||2 episodes|
|1996||City Life||Daniel Freeman||4 episodes|
|1998||The Chosen||Father Tahere||Television film|
|2002||Point of Origin||Mike Camello|
|2004||Traffic||Adam Kadyrov||3 episodes|
|2009–2010||Trauma||Reuben 'Rabbit' Palchuk||20 episodes|
|2011||Body of Proof||FBI Agent Derek Ames||2 episodes|
|2012||Missing||Agent Dax Miller||10 episodes|
|2014||Gang Related||Javier Acosta||13 episodes|
|2015–2017||Fear the Walking Dead||Travis Manawa||21 episodes|
|2016–2017||Talking Dead||Himself||3 episodes|
- "AMC's 'Fear the Walking Dead' Begins Production in Vancouver" (Press release). AMC. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Haines, Leah (12 February 2006). "Cliff Curtis, the megastar with a mortgage". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
- ""Don't cry for me, Waititi" says Pita Sharples". Scoop. 25 January 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- Parahi, Carmen (Interviewer) (15 December 2014). "Cliff Curtis: My real life tragedy, violence and triumph". Marae TV. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021 – via YouTube.
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- "The Dark Horse: Cliff's Edge". The NZ Herald. 26 July 2014.
- "Graduate". www.toiwhakaari.ac.nz. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
- "...a funny, warm-hearted comedy set in heartland New Zealand...", New Zealand Film Commission
- "Whenua Films". Whenua Films. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- "Wellington director's feature to be the highest-grossing NZ production". Wellington.scoop.co.nz. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- "Film review with Dan Slevin". Radio New Zealand National. 24 July 2014.
- Baillie, Russell (31 July 2014). "Movie review: The Dark Horse". The New Zealand Herald.
- Hibberd, James (4 December 2014). "'Walking Dead' spinoff casts male lead". Entertainment Weekly.
- Moore, Debi (29 March 2015). "News: See the First Teaser for AMC's Fear the Walking Dead". Dread Central.
- "Cliff Curtis starred as daredevil flight medic Reuben "Rabbit" Palchuck..." NBC. 14 July 2010. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
- Prudom, Laura (2014). "The Walking Dead' Companion Series Casts Cliff Curtis as Male Lead". Variety.
- Ross, Dalton (11 August 2015). "Cliff Curtis explains why Fear the Walking Dead is more than a zombie show". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
- MrDisgusting (29 March 2015). "'Fear The Walking Dead' Trailer: Get Your Flu Shot!". Bloody Disgusting.
- "'Fear the Walking Dead' Star Cast in All Four 'Avatar' Sequels". Entertainment Weekly. 9 May 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
- Davis, Brandon (27 January 2019). "'Hobbs And Shaw' Casts Cliff Curtis As A Hobbs, More Brothers Revealed". ComicBook. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
- "Cliff Curtis' NZ wedding". The New Zealand Herald. 3 January 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
- "Cliff Curtis discusses playing Jesus in new film Risen". Stuff (company). 14 March 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
- Beale, Lewis (1 April 2016). "'Fear the Walking Dead's' Cliff Curtis talks ethnic roles". Newsday. Retrieved 10 March 2021.