Hardly needing any introduction, especially in this part of the world, Rawiri Paratene is a veteran actor, writer and director. Known to the world as Koro in Whale Rider, Rawiri is a lot younger than what he was aged up to be in that film. He expressed delight when the script for The Insatiable Moon described his character, Arthur, as a good-looking 43 year old. Rawiri, a former Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, has a long and notable career in film, television and drama. His involvement with Moon goes back to 2002. Having read the novel, he wrote wanting to take an option on the book to adapt it for film. Learning that it was already being adapted, he immediately sought the lead role, saying “But mostly, I want to play the role of Arthur!!!” He admits that it’s a part he went after. “I first read the story in 2002 and was sure I was meant to play the role. Arthur is a very innocent and pure character. He has a glow about him, a sense of magic – he’s complicated, but essentially he has this innocence.”
Rawiri had plenty of time to prepare for his role as a psychiatric patient who believes himself to be the second son of God: “I thought it (the film) would be up in 2004 and now it’s 2010,” he says. In between international film performances and a season at the Globe in London, Paratene stayed in touch with script developments and brought valued insights to the project. He consulted with advisors on aspects of psychiatric illness and boarding house life. When it came time to shoot the film, he was entirely on song and brought an outstanding performance to the role. It is a demanding part, requiring a complex character arc throughout the storyline – always a big ask with the necessity of shooting out of sequence.
It is no surprise to anyone who knows him that Rawiri is one of the most loved and respected actors in New Zealand. It is not only his considerable talent which makes him so. He also brings a deep and natural humility and spirituality to anything he turns his hand to. Often on set he could be found chatting to extras or the trainees on the crew, or finding someone on the periphery of things to bring into the centre. Rawiri has a sense of the importance of community, and together with the producers sought to bring a sense of family to those who were making the film. He has a graciousness which is infectious, and added to his natural sense of humour makes him a popular character on any film set.
He sees The Insatiable Moon as offering an insight into a different world:
Films can allow the viewer to go into the lounges, the bathrooms and the bedrooms of communities we’d never have the opportunity to go into – and by that we find that they’re the same as us. With Whale Rider… who knew? I hope this one has the same potential – it has a beautiful cast. I am just so happy that it got there, onto a screen, and I’m hopeful for how it will go.