Geoffrey Peter Murphy ONZM (born 13 October 1938) is a New Zealand filmmaker, as a 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 movie to win major commercial success on its own soil.
Murphy directed a string of Hollywood features during the 1990s, before returning to New Zealand as second-unit director on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The versatile Murphy has also been a scriptwriter, special effects technician, schoolteacher and trumpet player.
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.
Murphy was a founding member of legendary '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 confirmed his versatility and ability to attract mainstream audiences with the two films that followed: Māori western Utu (1983) and the last-man-on-Earth piece The Quiet Earth (1985). Utu won rave reviews from Variety and critic Pauline Kael, while The Quiet Earth was described as "the best science-fiction film of the 80s" by the New York Daily News. The latter film became a cult hit in the United States.
Murphy became renowned for his abilities with action, knockabout comedy, and fusing genres.
By the 1990s Murphy had begun a decade working outside of New Zealand, mostly in the United States. In this period he directed movies 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. However, none of these films were well received by critics overall.
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 critically panned thriller Spooked, featuring Cliff Curtis. More recently, 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 another Hollywood movie.
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 in the 2014 New Year Honours. In the same year, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by Massey University.1974 Uenuku (TV, 37min)
1977 Wild Man (75min)
1977 Dagg Day Afternoon (30min)
1981 Goodbye Pork Pie
1985 The Quiet Earth
1988 Never Say Die
1989 Red King, White Knight
1990 Young Guns II
1993 Blind Side (HBO)
1994 The Last Outlaw
1995 Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
1996 Don't Look Back
1997 The Magnificent Seven - TV pilot
1997 Dante's Peak - 2nd Unit Director
1999 Fortress 2
2000 Race Against Time
2001 Blerta Revisited (documentary)
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - 2nd Unit Director
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - 2nd Unit Director
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - 2nd Unit Director
2005 XXX: State of the Union - 2nd Unit Director
2009 Tales of Mystery and Imagination (film)
2013 Utu Redux