"Being grateful keeps me grounded as an artist but what keeps me passionate is I love the process of collaboration and contribution to the possibility that a great story can challenge, heal and uplift the human spirit."Maori Proverb: "Naku te rourou. Nau te rourou. Ka ora ai te iwi." (By each of our contributions, there in, the well being of our nation is assured.)

Cliff Curtis has appeared in and produced many of New Zealand's most celebrated movies - including The Piano, Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Boy and The Dark Horse - whilst carving a career as a chameleon character actor in Hollywood.

Curtis is of Maori (Te Arawa and Ngati Hauiti) descent and was born in Paraparaumu NZ (1968). Raised in Rotorua, his first performances were school kapa haka and mau taiaha. Leaving school at 14 years of age, he worked in a range of jobs as an unskilled manual labourer. Through his interest in dance and theatre he became a co-founding member of The Mantis Theatre Co-op in his teens. His first success in performance was winning NZ Rock n Roll Dance Championship titles in 1987 & 1988. Encouraged to pursue acting as a profession he attended Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, graduating at age 21, leading to further study at Teatro Dimitri Scoula in Switzerland (1991).


Starting his professional career in regional theatres across NZ included Downstage, Mercury and Centre Point Theatres. His feature film debut was a small role in The Piano (1993) which Curtis recalls involved "carrying the piano". He explored a wide range of genres in NZ films including Desperate Remedies, Jubilee and River Queen. But, it was Once Were Warriors (1994) and Whale Rider (2002) that brought him to a wider audience. To date he has received four New Zealand Film and Television awards.


Curtis won early attention in the US working with director David O. Russell on Three Kings in 1999 alongside actors George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg whilst simultaneously working with director Martin Scorsese and actor Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead. In this same year he worked with director Michael Mann and actors Al Pacino and Russell Crowe on The Insider. Since, Curtis has worked steadily internationally, taking a pragmatic approach to his Hollywood career to strengthen his craft and enhance his passion for producing.


In 2004 Curtis formed Maori film production company Whenua Films with cousin, Ainsley Gardiner. The pair produced Taika Waititi's WWII short film Tama Tū (2005), debut feature Eagle vs Shark (2007), and Boy, inspired by Waititi's Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night. Accumulating a cache of local and international acclaim and awards for each project it was Boy that became the highest grossing local film in New Zealand's history in 2010. Whenua Films also ran a NZFC Short Film scheme executive producing a number of successful short films, including Hawaikii, Coffee & Allah and Taua.


Other independent producing opportunities came with UK feature Great Expectations (2012) and US feature Green Card Warriors (2013).


In 2013 Curtis created production company Arama Pictures to continue his commitment to indigenous storytelling inspired by the work of mentors Merata Mita, Don Selwyn & Barry Barclay. Arama Pictures has executive produced feature The Dark Horse and short Ahi Ka, a story about Curtis's grandmother as a child. In 2014 Arama Pictures is set to produce a documentary feature about filmmaker Merata Mita.


In 2014 Curtis took the starring role of Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse. Reviewer Micheal Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter says "The Dark Horse is an emotionally potent story of redemption anchored by a heart-piercing lead performance from Cliff Curtis that is certain to attract awards attention."


Curtis continues to alternate producing local stories with acting roles in Hollywood counting over 50 credits to date between producing and acting in TV, theatre and film.

 

In 2014 Curtis began filming in Malta on the set of feature film Clavius in the role of (Yeshua) Jesus Christ.

1968
Born
1983
At 14 yrs of age left school to work as unskilled manual labor.
1986
Co-founding member of The Mantis Theatre Co-Op.
1987 & 88
Awarded: NZ Rock n Roll Dance Champion.
1989
Graduated - Toi Whakaari - NZ Drama School.
1990 to 95
Seasons with Downstage, Centrepoint, Mercury, Taki Rua, Bats & The Watershed theaters.
1994
Awarded Best Supporting Actor - (Desperate Remedies) - NZ Film Awards.
1994
Nominated Best Supporting Actor - (Once Were Warriors) - NZ Film Awards.
1998
Awarded Best Actor - (The Chosen) - NZ Film & TV Awards.
1999
Established US career by working with Hollywood Directors Martin Scorcese, Michael Mann & David O'Russell the same year.
2000
Awarded Best Actor (Jubilee) - NZ Film Awards.
2002
Awarded Best Supporting Actor (Whale Rider) - NZ Film Awards.
2004
Producer / Co-Founder - Whenua Films production company.
2010
Producer - Feature Film BOY awarded numerous international awards and becomes highest grossing domestic film in NZ history.
2013
Producer / Founder - Arama Pictures production company.
2014
Executive Producer / Actor - The Dark Horse. Recipient - Arts Foundation Laureate Award Awarded Best Actor for The Dark Horse at the Eighth Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards Awarded Best Actor for The Dark Horse at the Rialto Channel NZ Film Awards. The Dark Horse also receives Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Score. The film received 6 awards from 13 nominations.
2015
Awarded Best Actor for The Dark Horse at the Seattle International Film Festival. The Dark Horse also receives the Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film.
2016
Plays Jesus in the the film "Risen". Films "This is Paki", an eight-part Maori drama series