Celebrity News

Napier relives its horror

A movie about the city’s tragic siege opens fresh wounds.

Bullet holes still mark the road outside Jan Molenaar’s suburban home, the site of the Napier siege in 2009. And much like the ground bears the scars of the tragedy, the city itself is still nursing open wounds. The drama that unfolded during a two-day standoff between gunman Molenaar and police saw Senior Constable Len Snee shot dead and three other men critically injured.

Many Napier residents were locked out of their homes during the 51-hour siege, as Molenaar fired hundreds of rounds on the 100-strong police officers and Armed Offenders Squad members gathered at the  Hospital Hill area.

The tragedy is still fresh in the minds of those involved, and the decision to film a telemovie about the events, produced by Screentime, seems almost too soon. But in fact Siege, starring well-known actors Joel Tobeck, Miriama Smith and Mark Mitchinson, comes with the blessing of large numbers of the community.

Many police officers involved in the siege, as well as Len Snee’s widow Vicki Snee, wanted their story told as a way to find closure. “Most of the [police officers] have been up to the set,” says Screentime executive director  Philly de Lacey.

“Vicki Snee came up to the set but she found it really hard. “Some people have actually described it as being quite cathartic because they’re getting to talk about it. That won’t be the case with everyone of course,” he says.

By basing the story on records compiled by police during the siege, producer Ric Pellizzeri says he hopes to make the dramatisation as true to the actual events as possible. Actors playing police officers met with their real-life counterparts before filming to help with the accuracy of the production.

Acclaimed Kiwi actor Joel found meeting with Superintendent Sam Hoyle, who he plays in the film, very rewarding. “I don’t think I’ve played real people much before,” says Joel. “Sam is a fairly calm, collected individual. But there was a lot of pressure on him that day. I could see it was still very raw for him talking about it.”

Visiting the set of Siege is a deeply unsettling experience. The two-hour drama is being filmed in Molenaar’s actual home from which he shot Len Snee – and where he would eventually take his own life in the lime-green master bedroom.

The house has one of the most scenic views in Napier and the set is decorated how Molenaar kept his home – complete with a collection of ornamental clogs lining the walls. The contrast between a cosy home life and the horrific events that took place there is so unnerving, some of the cast refused to set foot in the house.

“I won’t go inside that house,” says Peter Feeney, who plays Senior Constable Paul Symonds in the drama. “We filmed the opening scenes in the house and it certainly has its own energy,” adds Toby Leach, who plays Senior Constable Grant Diver, one of the officers injured during the standoff.

“When we were shooting scenes on the road later on, we were offered the opportunity to go inside the house to wait in between scenes, but it wasn’t something I took up.”

Former Shortland Street star Miriama was undaunted by the prospect of fi lming within a crime scene. Miriama plays Molenaar’s partner, convicted drug dealer Delwyn Keefe, and she has discovered the human side to the home that Delwyn shared with him. “Apart from all the funny little hiding holes, it was a home,” says Miriama.

After the siege, Molenaar’s house was seized by the Crown and Delwyn chose to not co-operate with the filming. Miriama says she gained a new perspective on her character’s situation. “I think what I’ve learned is we should be careful how we judge people,” says Miriama.

“Molenaar came home to find the police in his house and I believe he felt like his privacy had been violated. That obviously sparked something in him. He didn’t want them there, it was his sanctuary.”

Despite the grim subject matter, Miriama believes showing the story on screen will help New Zealand grow as a nation. “I’m glad we’re telling New Zealand stories,” she says. “It was a tragic event… but the good things and the bad make us who we are.”

Related stories

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.