Geoff Murphy

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Geoff Murphy

Geoff Murphy (cropped).jpg
Murphy in 2013
Geoffrey Peter Murphy

(1938-10-12)12 October 1938
Wellington, New Zealand
Died3 December 2018(2018-12-03) (aged 80)
Wellington, New Zealand
Occupation(s)Film director, film producer, screenwriter
Years active1977–2018
SpouseMerata Mita

Geoffrey Peter Murphy ONZM (12 October 1938 – 3 December 2018)[1] was a New Zealand filmmaker, producer, director, and screenwriter best known for his work during the renaissance of New Zealand cinema that began in the second half of the 1970s. His second feature Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) was the first New Zealand film to win major commercial success on its own soil.[citation needed] Murphy directed several Hollywood features during the 1990s, before returning to New Zealand as second-unit director on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Murphy was also at different times a scriptwriter, special effects technician, schoolteacher and trumpet player. He was married to Merata Mita, also a film director, actor, writer.

Early life[edit]

Murphy grew up in the Wellington suburb of Highbury, and attended St. Vincent de Paul School in Kelburn and St. Patrick's College, Wellington, before training and working as a schoolteacher.[2]


Murphy was a founding member of the hippy musical and theatrical co-operative Blerta, which toured New Zealand and Australia performing multi-media shows in the early 1970s.[3] Blerta were later given the opportunity to make their own television series, which in turn spawned what is arguably Murphy's first feature film, the 75-minute-long Wild Man. A number of Blerta members would work on Murphy's films, including drummer and Blerta founder Bruno Lawrence, who had starring roles in Utu and The Quiet Earth.

Early films[edit]

Murphy made his name with road movie Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), the first New Zealand film to attract large-scale audiences in its home country. Made on a low budget, the film followed three people travelling from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, to growing infamy along the way. Murphy directed the film and co-produced it with Nigel Hutchinson.[4] Murphy next directed the Māori Western Utu (1983) and the last-man-on-Earth piece The Quiet Earth (1985).[5]


By the 1990s Murphy had begun a decade working outside of New Zealand, mostly in the United States. In this period he directed films such as Young Guns II, Freejack, which featured Emilio Estevez and Mick Jagger, and Steven Seagal sequel Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. The latter proved his most successful film at the international box-office, grossing more than US$100 million worldwide.[6]

Return to New Zealand[edit]

Murphy returned to New Zealand and assisted Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings films; made a documentary film chronicling the Blerta phenomenon; and directed the thriller Spooked, featuring Cliff Curtis.[5] In the later 2000s, he directed the New Zealand television comedy series Welcome to Paradise,[7] worked on the remastered DVD release of Goodbye Pork Pie, and was 2nd-unit director on XXX: State of the Union.[5]

In 2013 Murphy was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards.[8] The same year saw the release of a restored and re-edited version of possibly his most ambitious film, Utu, under the title Utu Redux.

Murphy was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to film, in the 2014 New Year Honours.[9][10] In the same year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by Massey University.[11]

Murphy died on 3 December 2018.[12][13]



  1. ^ "New Zealand Film Icon Geoff Murphy Dies at 80". 4 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Honorary doc for NZ cinema's 'rascal of the realm'". Massey University. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Kiwi filmmaker Geoff Murphy on the madness of Hollywood". The New Zealand Herald. 26 September 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  4. ^ Croot, James (27 March 2017). "Goodbye Pork Pie producer Nigel Hutchinson dies, aged 75". Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Baillie, Russell (21 January 2005). "Geoff Murphy returns to New Zealand film". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Welcome to Paradise: what went wrong?". 31 January 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  8. ^ "The 2013 Winners of the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards". NZ Film Awards. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  9. ^ "New Year honours list 2014". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Investitures at Government House Wellington March 2014".
  11. ^ Fletcher, Kelsey (15 May 2014). "Trailblazing director honoured Screen scholar". Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Acclaimed Kiwi film director Geoff Murphy dies". New Zealand Herald. 4 December 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Geoff Murphy Dies: Kiwi Filmmaker Who Worked on 'The Lord of the Rings' Trilogy Was 80". 4 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Uenuku – Television". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  15. ^ "Tales of Mystery and Imagination – Film". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 21 September 2013.

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