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January 5, 1935|
Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji
June 5, 2004 (aged 69)|
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Occupation||Actor, Writer, Director, and Teacher|
He trained for 15 years in New York under the finest teachers: Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Harold Clurman, Sanford Meisner. He was an Honors graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (New York) and a Senior Life Member of the Actors Studio (New York and Hollywood). He received a B.A. from both the University of Hawaii and the University of London.
Manu Tupou was born on Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji Islands. After completing his studies at the University of Hawaii on a U.S. government scholarship, he began studying at the University of London on a BBC scholarship. On a summer vacation his girlfriend told him that he fit the description for a casting ad in the local newspaper. When he arrived, casting director Marion Dougherty pulled out a picture she had acquired from the Fiji Visitor Bureau. On a lark, he had posed with Dinah Shore's stand-in, who was in Fiji working on a network Christmas special. The picture became a poster which adorned the wall of the Fiji airport. When Dougherty and director George Roy Hill saw it, they knew they had found their man. When they asked the Fiji Visitor's Bureau where they could find this young man, they were told that he was of great importance (as he was part of the royal of family of Tonga and quite noteworthy of a person on the island). The Bureau told them that he was in Hawaii on vacation for school. Dougherty and Hill went off to Hawaii to find him, so by the time he arrived at the address in the ad they were expecting him. He auditioned and they both felt they had found their Prince. But Tupou declined as he was starting school in a couple of days.
He went back to London. After a couple of weeks he got a call from an authoritative voice. "Be ready at 9:00 a.m." The producers of the film persisted. A limousine was waiting for him. The driver paid his rent and took him to the BBC. It was here that the chairman of the BBC told Tupou he would keep his scholarship open for two years. He then was fitted for a suit, given a fistful of cash and sent to the airport where he flew to Hollywood to go to Samuel Goldwyn Studios. He arrived on the set of Hawaii, where he got his start in movies. Thus began his career. While staying with Dougherty in New York he was introduced to Lee Strasberg.
The Actors Studio
In New York, he studied at Carnegie Hall at the Actors Studio with the likes of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Shelley Winters. It was here began to develop himself as an artist. He began working on movies and television shows and even Broadway. It was here in New York that he studied with the greats of the time, later to develop his own technique. This technique was developed from what he learned and the mistakes he felt he made from using sense memory, which he felt damaged his sanity due to the use of past moments of pain and unconsciousness.
New Era Acting Technique
 Gleaning true knowledge and workable applications from his extensive educational experience in the arts, Manu Tupou formulated his discoveries into the simplistic, but revolutionary, "New Era Acting Technique" (NEAT). The hallmark of the NEAT technique is its respect for the sanctity and sanity of the individual artist-upgrading the artist's creation away from the limitations of memory and recalled past experiences, into a more redeeming and uplifting "slice of life," happening here and now in present time. This was the major difference in approach from the way his mentor Lee Strasberg taught Tupou and his classmates. One of the main philosophies behind the technique is that each talent is a unique essence unto itself- and also the most important, single, irreducible creative element in any production. Also equally unique (almost without exception), each talent observed will be found to have his own "working problem" as a creative artist. Small or large, the working problem can effectively sabotage any actor's creative abilities, and hence, their career. Tupou an important aspect was not only to correctly and accurately identify the working problem of an actor but more importantly providing a workable route by which such problems could be overcome through understanding and improved artistic ability.
"Your only obligation is to your art and you know it." --Manu Tupou
Actor Corin Nemec said of Tupou:
"I studied with Manu Tupou, He had his own theater company called the American Repertory Company. He was in the Actor's Studio when Marilyn Monroe was there. What he taught was his own Method, which was creating the character as it was scripted”, Corin said. “Living the life of the character as the beats and moments suggested in the material. Then finding whatever new and original beats and moments come out of that by working with the director and living the life of the character organically in the moment. As it’s scripted, this is what the character does - not me. That’s how I separate myself from that. I don’t use the Method. I’m not going into my own past to create a psychological condition that would drive me as an actor to create that moment. When you can embrace the life of the character and the environment and the scene that’s taking place, the rest happens naturally if your instrument is tuned............ learned from Manu was that it doesn’t matter what the project is. It matters what you bring to it as an artist. No matter what the storyline is, whether it be as silly as SS Doomtroopers or Mansquito or things I’ve done from SciFi Channel, which were a lot of fun, I’m going to bring to that, everything that I have to offer as an artist."
From the late 1970s, he taught acting at the American Repertory Company, where he focused intensely on each individual student, as he never let the class get larger than 12 students at a time. He wanted to have the luxury of giving anywhere from 15 minutes, and sometimes even up to one hour, of feedback and critiques. This was highly effective, ensuring the next time that student came to class and put up his work, it was taken to the next level. Tupou trained Eric Roberts, Ernie Reyes Jr., Calvin Levels, Santino Ramos, Jerri Manthey, Kath Soucie, and Arash Dibazar, among others. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2004.
Broadway and national tours
- Indians (1969) by Arthur Kopit: Chief Sitting Bull
- Othello (1971): Othello
- Iphigenia at Aulis (1971): King Agamemnon
- Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1972): Sidi El Assif
- Annie Get Your Gun (1977): Second portrayal of Sitting Bull
- The Old Glory (1977): Assawamset/Ferryman
- Black Elk Speaks (1981): Black Elk
- Hawaii (1966): Narrated/Co-starred as Prince Keoki, alongside Max von Sydow and Julie Andrews
- The Extraordinary Seaman (1969): Seaman 1/C Lightfoot Star, alongside David Niven and Faye Dunaway
- A Man Called Horse (1970): Chief Yellowhand, alongside Richard Harris
- The Castaway Cowboy (1974): Kimo, alongside James Garner and Vera Miles
- Hurricane (1979): Samolo, alongside Jason Robards and Mia Farrow
- Second collaboration with Mr. von Sydow
- Love Affair (1994): Rau, alongside Warren Beatty and Annette Bening
- Payback (1999): Pawnbroker, alongside Mel Gibson
- Chief Zabu (2016): Chief Henri Zabu, alongside Zack Norman and Allen Garfield
- Posthumous release; shot in 1986, but not released until 2016 due to production issues
- Hawaii Five-O
- Fantasy Island
- Magnum, P.I.
- The A-Team
- Hill Street Blues
- Barney Miller
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 280. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- 'THE MOVIEGOER': "Fijian Noble Stars in New Movie". The Deseret News. May 28, 1970. 8D.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-09-12. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
- "Manu Tupou Biography ((?)-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
- "Annie Get Your Gun West Coast Revival (1977)". Ovrtur.com. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
- Corry, John (13 March 1981). "Stage: 'black Elk,' Sioux Indian Litany". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 6 January 2018.