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Clifford Vivian Devon Curtis (born 27 July 1968) is a New Zealand born actor.


Curtis, one of nine children, was born in Rotoruamarker, in the North Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker, and is the son of an amateur dancer.. He received his secondary education at Edmund Rice College, Rotoruamarker. Curtis is of Maori descent and his tribal affiliations are Te Arawa and Ngati Hauiti. He has shown the ability to portray characters of a wide range of ethnicities, particularly various Latin American and Arab characters. He has appeared as a character actor in many Hollywood films, while back home in New Zealand he is usually the main star.

As a boy he studied Mau rākau, a traditional Maori form of taiaha fighting with Maori elder Mita Mohi on Mokoia Islandmarker, which nurtured his abilities as a performer in Kapahaka (traditional Maori song and dance performance). He later performed as a breakdancer and then competitively in rock'n'roll revival dance competitions.

He started acting in amateur theatre productions of the musicals Fiddler on the Roof and The Man of La Mancha with the Kapiti Players and the Mantis Cooperative Theatre Company before attending The New Zealand Drama School and Teatro Dimitri Scoula in Switzerland. He worked in a number of New Zealand theatre companies, including Downstagemarker, Mercury Theatre, Bats Theatremarker, and Centre Point. He appeared in stage productions of Happy End, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, The Cherry Orchard, Porgy and Bess, Weeds, Macbeth, Serious Money, and The End of the Golden Weather.

His first feature film role was in the Oscar-nominated New Zealand film The Piano. Other notable New Zealand film roles were Once Were Warriors, Desperate Remedies, River Queen and Whale Rider.

Since then he has starred opposite Anthony Hopkins, Eddie Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey and George Clooney in films such as Three Kings, Blow, Bringing Out the Dead, Sunshine and Training Day. His international reputation grew further in 2003, when he was one of the leads in the internationally popular New Zealand film Whale Rider.

In 2004 with producer Ainsley Gardiner, he formed the independent film production company Whenua Films. The goals of the company are to support the growth of the New Zealand indigenous filmmaking scene, and to be supportive of local short filmmakers. He and Gardiner were appointed to manage the development and production of the Short Films Fund for 2005/2006 by The New Zealand Film Commission. They have produced several shorts under the new company banner, notably, Two Cars, One Night, which received an Academy Award nomination in 2005. Whenua Films also produced the successful short film Hawaiki by director Mike Jonathan in 2006. Both short films have circulated through many of the prestigious international film festivals like the Berlinale. At the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Miramax Films bought US distribution rights to their first feature film Eagle vs Shark.

Film and television


  1. Cliff Curtis, the megastar with a mortgage - 12 Feb 2006 - NZ Herald: Life & Style News and Reviews from New Zealand and around the World
  2. Scoop: "Don't cry for me, Waititi" says Pita Sharples
  3. Whenua Films

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