Nerds of New ZealandJanuary 9, 2013
For the last two decades, The New Zealand film industry has been the heart of geek culture.
When world renowned kiwi director Peter Jackson turned his homeland into Middle Earth with his stunning adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and more recently The Hobbit, audiences were amazed by Weta Workshop’s incredible visual effects and left in awe at the stunning shots of the beautiful New Zealand landscapes. Though locals are known to thoroughly embrace The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as a big part of their culture, it’s not just known for being Middle Earth; several actors and actresses who call New Zealand home have now become household names in their own right.
Karl Urban was born in Wellington, New Zealand on June 7, 1972. Growing up, Urban’s mother worked for the Film Facilities in Wellington, exposing him to a lot of contemporary New Zealand Cinema at an early age. This inspired his interest in the film industry. Aside from various acting roles (including film, theatre, kiwi soap opera Shortland Street and several commercials), Urban first graced international audiences when he played the recurring roles of Cupid and Julius Caesar on the popular American TV Series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and it’s spin off Xena: Warrior Princess from 1996-2001. Both were filmed in New Zealand. Since then, Urban has gone on to appear in many acclaimed Hollywood films. Some of his bigger roles include Eomer in the The Two Towers and Return of the King (the second and third installment of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy), John Grimm in Doom (2005), Bones in Star Trek (2009), William Cooper in Red (2010), and recently starred as Judge Dredd in Dredd (2012).
Stunt-woman and actress Zoe Bell was born on November 17, 1978, and grew up in New Zealand’s beautiful Waiheke Island. She started her career doing stunts for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, and by the fourth season of Xena, was doubling for the show’s star, Lucy Lawless and from there went on to do stunt work on J.J. Abram’s Alias (2001). Later in her career, she was hired to double for Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino’s highly acclaimed Kill Bill: Volume I (2003) and again for the sequel, Kill Bill: Volume II (2004). Tarantino was so impressed by her talent, he later went on to cast her in the movie Death Proof (2007), writing a role in her likeness and casting Zoe to play herself. Naturally, Bell did all her own stunts, most notably hanging of the hood of a speeding 1970 Dodge challenger. She has also done stunts for Catwoman (2004), LOST (2004-2010), and Inglorious Basterds (2009) and had a small, non-speaking role as a tracker in Tarantino’s latest flick Django Unchained (2012).
Brett McKenzie is an actor, comedian and Academy Award winning musician and producer. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand on June 29, 1976. After attending high school at Wellington College, McKenzie went on to study at Victoria University of Wellington where he met Jermaine Clement, and the pair went on to form the band Flight of the Conchords. The duo’s music and comedy became the basis for a BBC radio series and then an HBO TV series, also named Flight of the Conchords. In February of 2008, the band won the Grammy for best comedy album with Distant Future. Independently, McKenzie won an Academy Award for best original song for his work on The Muppets (2011). He is also had a small role as an elf in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and recently in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. He is due to appear in the second installment The Hobbit: There and Back Again in December 2013.