Murphy in 2013
Geoffrey Peter Murphy
12 October 1938
Wellington, New Zealand
|Died||3 December 2018 (aged 80)|
Wellington, New Zealand
|Occupation||Film director, film producer, screenwriter|
Geoffrey Peter Murphy (12 October 1938 - 3 December 2018) 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 last 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. Murphy next directed the M?ori Western Utu (1983) and the last-man-on-Earth piece The Quiet Earth (1985).
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.
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. In the later 2000s, he directed the New Zealand television comedy series Welcome to Paradise, worked on the remastered DVD release of Goodbye Pork Pie, and was 2nd-unit director on XXX: State of the Union.
In 2013 Murphy was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards. 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. In the same year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by Massey University.