Filming of 'epic' NZ story under way

New Zealand actor Andy Henderson runs lines for filming of Tracker at Moke Lake yesterday,...
New Zealand actor Andy Henderson runs lines for filming of Tracker at Moke Lake yesterday, watched by actors and crew, along with director Ian Sharp. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
The New Zealand landscape would be "the third star" of a $NZ10 million movie being filmed in Queenstown, its director, Ian Sharp, said yesterday.

Tracker - a movie which has been almost 10 years in the making - is being filmed at Moke Lake, Glenorchy and Queenstown over the next three weeks.

Starring New Zealand's Temuera Morrison and the United Kingdom's Ray Winstone, Sharp said the "epic" New Zealand story deserved "epic treatment".

"It's very much a New Zealand story.

"It could not have been done anywhere else.

"I always saw this as a big canvas story, even though there are only two [main actors] . . . it's a wide-screen western."

Sharp was given the script, intending to pass it on to a New Zealand director.

However, after reading the first 20 pages, he decided to do it himself.

Written by the late Nicolas van Pallandt, Tracker is the first of his feature film scripts to be produced.

Set in 1903, Tracker is an action-thriller in which Arjan (Winstone), a guerrilla survivor of the South African Boer War, lands in colonial New Zealand and is promised a bounty to capture Kereama (Morrison), a Maori seafarer accused of killing a British soldier.

What should be a simple job for Arjan, a master tracker, turns into a game of cat and mouse as Kereama repeatedly escapes and is recaptured.

As each gains and loses the upper hand, they gradually get to know and respect each other.

UK producer David Burns said it was "surreal" to have filming finally under way.

"Our first screening of the film will be at Cannes in May 2010, almost [exactly] 10 years to the day since it was first written."

Burns said while there had been a lot of interest in the script when van Pallandt wrote it, van Pallandt had wanted to direct it and he had no experience.

"That went on for four or five years.

"By 2005, we had really come unstuck with it."

Van Pallandt died in 2006 aged 45.

Sourcing the funding for the film, which was a collaboration between the United Kingdom Film Council, the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Air and financing provided by Natixis Coficine, had proven difficult, he said.

"Even three days before we closed, it could have gone.

The British pound was getting weaker and weaker . . . it was costing us 15,000 every week it was being delayed."

Morrison said it was refreshing to be playing a Maori.

"I've been a Pakistani and somebody from outer space, so it's nice to get back to my culture."

Winstone was a "wonderful geezer" who came to Tracker with "some reputation", he said.

The English actor played a character not dissimilar to Morrison's in Once Were Warriors.

"Now I realise why people were looking at me . . .

"I could suddenly relate to how people were relating to me."

The film was very physical, he said.

Winstone said Morrison was a tremendous actor and knowing he was involved was a bonus.

"We started to hit it off, literally.

"I've just been running up a slope . . .

"I'm 52 years old, I don't want to be doing that, I want a stunt man to do it.

"In a way, at 52, being asked to still do that kind of stuff is quite exciting.

"I'm tougher than him, I'm sure I am.

"I think he's a bit of a pussy cat [but] just being across from him really helps with your performance."

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