Brewer upset by actors' objections

Vincent Gallo
Vincent Gallo
The brewery bankrolling a Wakatipu-shot commercial starring US actor Vincent Gallo says it is "surprised and disappointed" it has had to go on the defensive, after an actors' union complained the job should have gone to a New Zealand talent.

Lion Nathan corporate affairs director Neil Hinton, of Auckland, was commenting last week on criticisms from New Zealand Actors' Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand, who said that allowing "relatively unknown" actor Vincent Gallo into the country to work on the Steinlager Pure commercial had taken work away from a New Zealander.

Every production seeking to import a performer had to undertake a casting exercise as legislated under immigration regulations, Ms Ward-Lealand said.

The production company's casting process was "ridiculous" and "designed to ensure no New Zealand performers would get the job", she said.

"[NZ Actors Equity was] provided with misleading casting briefs seeking a UK-accented actor - not a US-accented actor as they have ultimately cast - and were told that no New Zealanders with any screen experience within the last three years need apply.

"There was no genuine intention to seek a New Zealander for the role.

"This decision is a slap in the face for all New Zealand performers and frankly shows contempt for all New Zealanders."

The commercial series previously featured US actors Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe, but the latest was being shot in New Zealand and was employing 43 New Zealand film-makers, Mr Hinton said.

"Our initial reaction was one of surprise because the formula of the Steinlager Pure ads was well known in having personalities who were uncompromising in their beliefs and values and Vincent Gallo fits that for us perfectly."

Mr Hinton said there had been "significant costs" caused by the delay in shooting by a day, while Lion Nathan appealed to Immigration New Zealand to grant Mr Gallo a temporary work visa, after Equity said "at the eleventh hour" it was not prepared to support the application.

Mr Hinton said the brewery's research had shown New Zealanders cringed when a New Zealander said great things about New Zealand.

"We're a lot more open to hearing it if it's from international people who are objective and credible."

Mr Gallo and the film crew shot on the Nevis road behind Bannockburn on Thursday.

They were expected to shoot in Paradise and the Dart Valley on Friday, then Oamaru on Saturday, before returning to Queenstown yesterday.

The commercial was expected to air in New Zealand in the next couple of months, depending on post-production, Mr Hinton said.


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