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» Once A Warrior, Now A Gag Man
by Keith Austin

November 2, 2000

He's not as tall as you thought he was. That's the first impression on meeting Jake the Muss, aka Temuera Morrison.

He's also not wound up as tight as the Once Were Warriors character.

In fact, he's downright laidback. Not too many actors volunteer to hold your tape recorder while you interview them. And even fewer would react well to the first question: "So what's it like to snog Pamela Anderson?"

Morrison, in Sydney to film a telemovie, Ihaka, for Channel Ten, takes a break from kissing Rebecca Gibney to reveal that swapping spit with the Baywatch beauty in the execrable movie, Barb Wire, was a "nice day at the office, that one" and that Pamela herself is a "sweet girl, very easy-going".

Great. He's a gentleman, too. Damn him.

Morrison is wearing a black leather jacket, blue jeans, black T-shirt, black cowboy boots and an eyeball-searing Hawaiian shirt as part of his character of Ihaka, the Maori cop sent to a police conference in Sydney.

As part of the course, he is paired up with the uptight Finn, another cop, played by Rebecca Gibney, and, between them they reopen and solve an old, closed case.

As storylines go, it's not reinventing the wheel - a situation that Morrison, with a resigned shrug, readily admits. "It's a bit stereotypical here and there, yeah, but ... I'm quite enjoying it because of the humor," he says. "It makes a change from doing heavy stuff.

"Remember that Beverly Hills Cop - the Detroit city cop who goes to LA? It's that kind of genre, a light-hearted comedy kind of thing, going for the laughs as opposed to a hard-edge real drama.

"I'm more of a clown in real life, anyway, but I've never had the opportunity to sort of explore those areas until now."

It is interesting to see Morrison, whose roles have included a tough guy in Barb Wire and bad guys in Seven Days Six Nights, The Island of Dr Moreau and the Warriors sequel, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, going for laughs for his own humor is throwaway and very, very dry. There is the feeling that humor is his yardstick; did you pick up on that joke or did it whizz over your head?

We have to break off while he goes back to filming the farewell scene with Gibney. One more time they exit the arts college building at Rozelle, which is doubling as the police headquarters. There is yet more kissing.

At one point Gibney turns to director Peter Fisk: "Do we want the tongue, Peter?"

"No. No tongue."

"Tem, we don't want the tongue."

Gibney is wearing black trousers, pink top and big green army overcoat during rehearsing. She is beautiful and smiles a lot. It's the first time the two have worked together, but it's clear they get on well.

"She's wonderful to work with," says Morrison over lunch later in his Hawaiian-shirt-festooned trailer. "She's very professional and easy-going. It's only the second week of filming, but we've gelled. There's a nice thing happening.

"She's so sweet and light-hearted."

Prior to Ihaka, Morrison played a Pakistani helicopter pilot in the upcoming Hollywood action movie, Vertical Climb, which had just finished filming in New Zealand.

After Ihaka, he got to do something that he says will make his nine-year-old son's year - a part in the next Star Wars film.

"I've been over to Fox to do some costume stuff and I'm standing there with all the gear on and all I can think of is 'Wait till my son sees this'."

As Boba Fett senior, Morrison says he's got a few scenes with "Obi Kenobi" and "a bit of a space chase through the asteroids".

He also laughs that he has the immortal line: "I'm just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe."

After Star Wars and a well-earnt break, he says, he'll be back in LA knocking on doors for work, "trying to fill in until the end of the year".

A simple man trying to make his way in the universe.

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