Martyn Sanderson

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Martyn Sanderson

Born(1938-02-24)24 February 1938
Westport, West Coast, New Zealand
Died14 October 2009(2009-10-14) (aged 71)
Ōtaki, Wellington, New Zealand

Martyn Sanderson ONZM (24 February 1938 – 14 October 2009) was an actor, director, producer, writer and poet from New Zealand. Described as one of the founding fathers of modern theatre in New Zealand. In New Zealand he had appearances in 26 films, but he also worked internationally including in Australia and Samoa.



Sanderson was born the son of a missionary father and a mother who was a writer, he studied literature at Oxford University, and after a brief study of theology, he abandoned his initial plans of joining the priesthood and a married a ceramic artist, Liz Earth. After returning to his native NZ, he was one of the founders of Downstage Theatre (now the Hannah Playhouse) in 1964 in Wellington, with a vision of a small professional company performing challenging works in an intimate venue, it is now one of the longest serving theatre companies in New Zealand. He emigrated to Australia in 1966, where he started producing his own documentaries and acting in film roles including the British-Australia production of Ned Kelly. In 1972, his family relocated to Hawkes Bay, where Sanderson toured with the multi-media group Blerta, and worked on films with Blerta members Bruno Lawrence and director Geoff Murphy. That decade he won a New Zealand Feltex Award for playing aviator Richard Pearse in a television film of the same title, and was nominated again for playing a British general in the historical miniseries The Governor , the most expensive TV drama made in New Zealand in that decade.

Sanderson's work as a screen director included a number of shorts featuring New Zealand poets, plus the 1989 feature Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree. Based on a work by Albert Wendt, Flying Fox is about a young Samoan caught between the values of his homeland and European colonisers.

He wrote a documentary One of those Blighters on Ronald Hugh Morrieson and the screenplay for the 1986 film of Morrieson's last novel, Pallet on the Floor .

Sanderson's other screen credits include Geoff Murphy's Utu , Jane Campion's An Angel at my Table , The Scarecrow , Old Scores , The Harp in the South , The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , a recurring guest role in the first two years of Shortland Street , Poor Man's Orange , the Hercules episode The King of Thieves and The Rainbow Warrior . At the time of his death he was working on a play called Muntu with his second wife, Wanjiku Kiare Sanderson and directed by Kenyen artist and playwright Wakanyote Njuguna, through the African Connection Aotearoa, that they also founded. Sanderson died of emphysema on 14 October 2009. [1]


Sanderson was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005, "for services to literature and the theatre". [2] [3] [4] [1]

Selected filmography

1970 Ned Kelly Fitzpatrick
1977Autumn Fires
1977Wild ManSnake
1977 Solo Jules Catweazle
1979Jack Winter's DreamBallarat Jake
1979 The Journalist Bert
1980A Woman of Good CharacterReverend
1981 Bad Blood Les North
1982 Beyond Reasonable Doubt Len Demler
1982 The Scarecrow Ned as Adult (voice)
1984Wild horsesJones
1984 Trial Run Alan West
1984 Utu Vicar
1985 The Lost Tribe Bill Thorne
1985 Sylvia Inspector Gulland
1986 Queen City Rocker Drunk Husband
1988 The Tale of Ruby Rose Bennett
1988 Never Say Die Farmer
1988MauriHospital Doctor (uncredited)
1990 An Angel at My Table Frank Sargeson
1991 Old Scores "Acid" Aitken
1993 Desperate Remedies Maori Warrior / Townspeople
1994The Last TattooRalph Simpson
1995 Savage Play Henry
1996 Juloratoriet  [ sv ]Stephen Eliot
1996ChickenBryce Tilfer
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Gate Keeper

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  1. 1 2 "Death of Martyn Sanderson" . Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  2. "Martyn Sanderson – Biography" . Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  3. "Well loved New Zealand Actor Martyn Sanderson Dies". 15 October 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  4. "Well loved New Zealand Actor Martyn Sanderson Dies". 15 October 2009. Archived from the original on 13 February 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2009.