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Selected other credits
- City Life
- Gang Related
- Hercules in the Underworld
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
- Mysterious Island
- Point of Origin (TV movie)
- Undercover (TV movie)
- A Thousand Words (2012)
- Crossing Over (2009)
- Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
- Spooked (2004)
- Heinous Crime (2004) (short)
- Whale Rider (2002)
- Jubilee (2000)
- Three Kings (1998)
- Six Days Seven Nights (1998)
- Chicken (1996)
- Desperate Remedies (1993)
- The Piano (1993)
- Great Expectations (executive producer)
- Greencard Warriors (executive producer)
- Hawaikii (short - executive producer)
- Taua (short - executive producer)
- Te Whakarauora Tangata (documentary - co-producer)
Curtis, one of nine children, was born in Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand, and is the son of an amateur dancer. He is of Māori descent, and his tribal affiliations are Te Arawa and Ngati Hauiti. He has shown the ability to portray characters of a wide range of ethnicity, particularly various Latin American and Arab characters. He has appeared as a character actor in many Hollywood films, while back home in New Zealand he is usually the main star.
As a boy, he studied Mau rākau, a traditional Māori form of taiaha fighting with Māori elder Mita Mohi on Mokoia Island, which nurtured his abilities as a performer in Kapahaka, traditional Māori song and dance performance. He later performed as a breakdancer and also competitively in rock'n'roll revival dance competitions.
He started acting in amateur theater productions of the musicals Fiddler on the Roof and The Man of La Mancha with the Kapiti Players and the Mantis Cooperative Theatre Company before attending the New Zealand Drama School and Teatro Dimitri Scoula in Switzerland. He worked in a number of New Zealand theater companies, including Downstage, Mercury Theatre, Bats Theatre, and Centre Point. He appeared in stage productions of Happy End, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Othello, The Cherry Orchard, Porgy and Bess, Weeds, Macbeth, Serious Money, and The End of the Golden Weather.
His first feature film role was in the Oscar-nominated New Zealand film The Piano. Other New Zealand films in which he has acted include Once Were Warriors, Desperate Remedies, and River Queen. His international reputation grew further in 2003, when he was one of the leads in the internationally popular New Zealand film Whale Rider.
Since then, he has starred in films such as Three Kings, Blow, Bringing Out the Dead, Sunshine, and Training Day.
In 2004 with producer Ainsley Gardiner, he formed the independent film production company Whenua Films. The goals of the company are to support the growth of the New Zealand indigenous filmmaking scene and to be supportive of local short filmmakers. He and Gardiner were appointed to manage the development and production of the Short Films Fund for 2005/2006 by The New Zealand Film Commission. They have produced several shorts under the new company banner, notably, Two Cars, One Night, which received an Academy Award nomination in 2005. Whenua Films also produced the successful short film Hawaiki by director Mike Jonathan in 2006. Both short films have circulated through many of the prestigious international film festivals like the Berlinale. At the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Miramax Films bought U.S. distribution rights to Whenua's first feature film Eagle vs. Shark.
- 2003: Won a New Zealand Film and TV Award for Whale Rider (Best Supporting Actor)
- 2000: Won a New Zealand Film and TV Award for Jubilee (Best Actor)
- 1994: Won a New Zealand Film and TV Award for Desperate Remedies (Best Performance in a Supporting Role: Male)
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