There's a scene early on in new superhero film Aquaman where Temuera Morrison tells his on-screen love interest Nicole Kidman, "I was going to cook you some eggs."
It's a sly reference to his iconic role as Jake the Muss in Once Were Warriors that will fly right over the heads of most overseas viewers, but at the film's Auckland premiere it was met with cheers and applause.
"I didn't ruin the bloody movie, did I?" Temuera, 57, asks Woman's Day. "I swear that was in the script and I just went with it. It wasn't my idea, but I'll take the credit for it."
In fact, the actor owes his appearance in Aquaman – where he plays lighthouse keeper Tom, father of Jason Momoa's titular superhero – to his role in the classic Kiwi film.
Temuera tells, "Jason saw Once Were Warriors when he was growing up in Iowa and because his father's Hawaiian, it really impinged on his cultural consciousness and identity. It was a powerful film for him and inspired him to get into the business. I'm blessed because Jason had a big say in me getting the job."
In Aquaman, Jason, 39 (known for his role in Game Of Thrones), wears a pounamu and greets his dad with a hongi, while the Kiwi actor makes reference to ta moko tattooing, all of which Temuera credits to Jason embracing the Maori culture he encountered during filming on the Gold Coast.
"Jason was working out with a lot of Maori boys, who he flew in to do the haka when he got married [to actress Lisa Bonet,]" explains Temuera.
"And there were a number of times when we went out for a fancy dinner and I'd end up giving him taiaha [spear] lessons on the street while everyone else was eating. He even asked me about the Maori language as he wanted to speak a few words in the movie. I feel quite proud Jason has adopted it as his culture too."
As for working with Oscar winner Nicole, 51, Temuera tells, "I was fascinated with the way she plays with the camera. She has a real sparkle in her eyes. I spent a lot of time observing her – and standing on a box as she's a little bit taller than me. I said, 'I suppose this happens all the time with your leading men,' and she said, 'Yeah, or they dig a hole for me to stand in.'
"She reminded me of a ballerina because she's very gentle and graceful. But she had a lot of action scenes in this movie, while I played the big wuss hiding in the cupboard with a baby, which I thought was quite funny after Jake."
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