Bruno Lawrence

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Bruno Lawrence
Bruno Lawrence.jpg
Bruno Lawrence
David Charles Lawrence

(1941-02-12)12 February 1941
Died10 June 1995(1995-06-10) (aged 54)
Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealander
OccupationActor, musician
Years active1965–1995

Bruno Lawrence (12 February 1941 10 June 1995) was an English-New Zealand musician and actor.


Initially notable as a musician and founder of 1970s ensemble Blerta, he went on to well-regarded roles in several major films. His television work included starring in 1990s era Australian satirical series Frontline .

Early life

Born David Charles Lawrence in Worthing, West Sussex, England, he moved with his family to New Zealand in 1946. The family settled in New Plymouth before relocating to Wellington in 1948.


Lawrence spent most of his life in New Zealand, but also worked extensively in Australia. He was a jazz and rock drummer in many bands, including two years with Max Merritt & The Meteors in Sydney, Quincy Conserve, [1] Blerta, and The Crocodiles. [2] His last recording was with Bernie McGann, Larry Gales and Jonathan Crayford on "Jazz at the St. James" in 1989. [3] A remarkable show, it was repeated in 1990, this time with Vince Jones on vocals, Dave Addis on saxophone, Jonathan Crayford on piano, Rolf Stube on bass and added the New Zealand String Quartet. [2]

In the early 1970s, Lawrence founded Blerta ("Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition"). The multi and theatrical co-operative toured New Zealand and in parts of Australia. Blerta saw him performing alongside many people he would work with later as an actor, including director Geoff Murphy, and actors Martyn Sanderson and Ian Watkin.

Acting roles

Lawrence began acting in short films in the late 1960s. He won his first acting award, for television play Time Out, in 1971, although at this point music took up the majority of his time. By the late 1980s he had become one of New Zealand's most recognised actors on his own soil. Between 1981 and 1986 he was a much loved feature of many local films; he continued to act in occasional NZ productions through until 1993.

Lawrence's breakthrough movie role was relationship drama Smash Palace (1981). Playing the former race car driver who leaves with his daughter after the breakdown of his marriage, Bruno won an award at the Manila Film Festival, and acclaim from American critic Pauline Kael. Further acclaim came with his leading role as the lone scientist in Geoff Murphy's end-of-the-world tale, The Quiet Earth (1985), for which Bruno also helped write the script. He had earlier acted in Murphy's Utu (1983), about the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, and cameoed in his breakthrough film Goodbye Pork Pie (1981). The Los Angeles Times compared his work in 1984 drama Heart of the Stag to that of "a young Brando".

Bruno's Australian roles included Anthony Hopkins movie Spotswood (aka The Efficiency Expert), Colleen McCullough adaptation An Indecent Obsession (playing a blind man), and 1986 miniseries The Great Bookie Robbery (playing gun-loving robber Cracka Park). In 1990, he portrayed John Peterson in the film, The Rogue Stallion . His last and, at least in Australia, best-known screen role was as devious, golf-loving TV producer Brian Thompson in 1990s satirical TV series Frontline .


In 1994 while enjoying the success of the Australian television series Frontline, Lawrence was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He died in Wellington, New Zealand, on 10 June 1995 at the age of 54. [4]

A biography, Bruno: The Bruno Lawrence Story by Roger Booth, and television documentary Numero Bruno (2000, directed by Steve La Hood), [5] cover his life and work. Lawrence is also featured in compilation documentary Blerta Revisited (2001, directed by Geoff Murphy). [6]


This is a selection of notable appearances.



Awards and nominations

Aotearoa Music Awards

The Aotearoa Music Awards (previously known as New Zealand Music Awards (NZMA)) are an annual awards night celebrating excellence in New Zealand music and have been presented annually since 1965.

YearNominee / workAwardResultRef.
1965"Bruno Do That Thing"Single of the YearNominated [7]

Related Research Articles

Cinema of New Zealand Overview of the cinema of New Zealand

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<i>Utu</i> (film) 1983 film by Geoff Murphy

Utu is a 1983 New Zealand film directed and co-written by Geoff Murphy; starring Anzac Wallace as Te Wheke, a warrior who sets out to get vengeance after British forces kill his people, Bruno Lawrence and Kelly Johnson. Sometimes described as "a Maori Western", Utu was reputed to have one of the largest budgets for a New Zealand film up until that time.

Geoff Murphy New Zealand filmmaker

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The Quiet Earth is a 1985 New Zealand post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Geoff Murphy and starring Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge and Peter Smith as three survivors of a cataclysmic disaster. It is loosely based on the 1981 science fiction novel of the same name by Craig Harrison. Other sources of inspiration have been suggested: the 1954 novel I Am Legend, Dawn of the Dead, and especially the 1959 film The World, the Flesh and the Devil, of which it has been called an unofficial remake.

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  1. "Quincy Conserve" . Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  2. 1 2 "Bruno Lawrence". Bruce Sergent. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  3. John Clare (11 May 2002). "Jazz at the St James: Gales, Lawrence, McGann and Crayford". SMH . Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  4. Steel, Gary (12 May 2013). "Bruno Lawrence Profile". AudioCulture. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  5. "Numero Bruno (available for download)". NZ On Air . Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  6. Calder, Peter (19 July 2000). "Film Festival: Numero Bruno". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  7. "Aotearoa Music Awards". Retrieved 18 August 2021.