(Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
In a season of TV packed with cameos, callbacks, and Easter Eggs designed to tap directly into the pleasure centers of hardcore and casual Star Wars fans alike, perhaps none of The Mandalorian‘s second season’s big moments tapped quite so successfully – and elicited quite as universal an elated response from audiences – as the return of Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett. It wasn’t just that Morrison, the seasoned New Zealand actor who first played intergalactic bounty hunter Fett in 2005’s Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, was back, but the way he returned. In an episode directed by Robert Rodriguez, Fett re-entered the frame in a set of sequences that felt completely fresh in the Star Wars universe, mixing familiar laser shooting with hand-to-hand combat moves and brutal take-downs that felt more John Wick than New Hope. When it was revealed that Fett would get his own spin-off, The Book of Boba Fett, which comes to Disney+ in late 2021, fans lost their s–t.
Morrison makes another sci-fi return this month, though on a decidedly smaller scale, in the sequel to Australian sci-fi action flick, Occupation, which was released quietly in 2018 but picked up a fan base when it landed on Netflix in the US a few years later. The scale of the alien-invasion saga has expanded substantially in Occupation: Rainfall – it opens with a battle that could be ripped from, say, The Mandalorian, and quickly heaps on the disaster porn as the city of Sydney is completely destroyed – but the mix of intimacy and smart social commentary that defined the first film remains intact. That was part of the appeal of the project for Morrison, who returns as Peter Bartlett, a man who lost nearly everything in the invasion, and who is now living in a small farmhouse where he can protect the few precious things he has left – including his daughter. Another part of the appeal: the scrappy band of filmmakers behind the Rainfall films, led by writer-director Luke Sparke, who put his life and life’s savings on the line – and that of his backer’s – to make the kind of big-budget action film you rarely see coming out of Australia.
Ahead of the movie’s release in theaters and on streaming, Morrison sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to share his six favorite films – not a sci-fi adventure in sight – and talk about why he came back for Occupation: Rainfall and the pressure he’s feeling to live up to fan expectations for Boba Fett’s big spin-off series.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, horses, sand! They kind of went on this journey, turned up in the British command, looking like an Arab. He’d been transformed. He had to survive. He’d gone into another culture and learned about it and learned who the chiefs were and what it was they were doing. And those performances by Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn!
As a young man, I grew up relating to Omar Sharif, because he was probably the same color as I was. And there weren’t too many of us besides the Apaches on the big screen – and John Wayne was shooting all of those guys. So I loved seeing the colorful people on the screen, back in those days.
And just the compositions: Again, the land, and they’ve got it all on those long wide lenses, anamorphic lenses, things like that.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
When I went out hunting with my dad as a kid, he marched all of us out behind him. When he saw a deer, he told us all to stop, kneel down. We knelt down. I was a kid, I think, when I first saw a beautiful deer appear, red stag…. My old man put the gun up. [Makes gunshot sound.] Then I saw this majesty of a beast, just … fall. And then when I saw that image in that movie, I said, “Oh, s–t: I saw that image when I was a kid.” I was mesmerized. And I went into this journey, and the next minute I’m in Vietnam and all those things I hadn’t seen it before. And then, of course, the roulette scene. You don’t get a more intense actor vibe than the one going on between those two actors, Walken and De Niro.
And of course, there’s Meryl Streep.
Then when they’re at the wedding, you get that feeling that you’re inside the family. Same in The Godfather, I guess, when they have the wedding as well. All the wedding scenes seem to work for me. The extras were real. No one’s acting. It’s wonderful.
Russell and Joaquin were the new generation of great actors, and then you had the other two greats at the other end: Oliver Reed and Richard Harris. Oliver Reed, recalling himself as a young gladiator, when the sun’s shining into that little parchment there in the building, and he’s talking about the old days, when he was that guy – what a performance. Again, with Richard Harris, they were out of the theater, those guys, so you get their listening capability, just their texture, their voice, the way their rhythms are and how they listen.
And for me again, seeing the two younger actors, probably the best at their time – Joaquin was humming on his career process back then; obviously, Russell was at the top of his game, and they got to work with Mr. Ridley Scott.
The moment Maximus has to rile his boys up and get them all motivated, I use it in some of my speeches, as a motivational tool to some of the schools I speak to: “It’s what you do in this life that echoes into eternity.”
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Michael Mann was the man. And of course, the best actor [Daniel Day-Lewis] in the world is in the movie – you don’t get any better than that guy. Plus, the movie has those tracking shots and the introduction of the tomahawk, which had that noise about it – when you knew you were going to get sliced [makes sound of swooshing tomahawk through air].
The Godfather (1972)
I got to work with Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau, up in Queensland, a place called Daintree, the Daintree Rainforest, by Cairns. We were up there drinking VBs [an Australian beer], quite a large group.
You were drinking VBs with Marlon Brando?
No, no, he wasn’t drinking VBs, mate, we were – the animal people. I was a dog man, but I got to work with Brando on that. He was Dr. Moreau. I was literally his right-hand dog in the movie, called Azazello, half human. So it was great to see him work, see a master work.
And again, in The Godfather, you have Al Pacino, playing the young, new kid on the block – so they’re the old and the new. One was passing on and one was coming up. Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather… just the directing overall – Francis Ford Coppola, now we drink his wine.
What an intense drama. The scene where they had to protect the Godfather – he’d been taken to hospital, and then someone realized there was no security guards. The security guards had suddenly vanished, and they found themselves outside. And then the car pulled up and he said, “Just pretend you got a gun.” They had to pretend they had a gun under their jackets, but they didn’t, they sort of just moved their waistcoats a little bit. It was just those intense moments, if you get them right.
You can still watch The Godfather and The Godfather: Part 2 today anytime on a Saturday afternoon and it’s raining. It still stands up.
And just to see Brando, because he came with a force when he arrived on the screen, Streetcar Named Desire, through On the Waterfront, and breaking down the barriers. He made mumbling cool. And kind of this energy, this rawness about him. To see him really work the craft again. Every now and then he probably sort of just turned up for work. But that one there, he actually worked the craft.
Joel Meares for Rotten Tomatoes: Congratulations on Occupation: Rainfall. It’s kind of an unlikely story, these guys who funded their own big-budget action sci-fi movie. How did you get involved in the movie?
Temuera Morrison: Well, thank you very much. I came across these people, [director] Luke Sparke. They came out of wardrobe. That was their specialty, and they have a lot of experience in wardrobe. So these were tenacious, young people from the Gold Coast, Surfer’s Paradise.
At the time, I needed to get ready for Aquaman in some way. And I think I’d been a little bit quiet at that particular time and I’d just been promoting Osiris Child at one of those conventions us actors go to, another great sci-fi movie out of Australia — great director, Shane Abbess, but they had limited resources. The Rainfall team managed to make the movie look as big as Star Wars at times – it’s amazing what they can do from the camera to what we see on the screen.
For me it was as opportunity to, again, meet young people, meet the new future, people like Luke. They have a vision, they have a tenacity. So it spun off from the first one, I guess, and that led to the second one.
Rotten Tomatoes: The first movie, Occupation, started getting notice from American audiences when it landed on Netflix. Did you notice a sense when people started to pick up on it and take notice of that first film? Was there a moment where people started to talk to you about it?
Morrison: Yes, I guess, well, not really in a way. I think I’ve been a little bit busy now kind of moving on. But yes, it made Netflix. I know the second one was a big challenge for the producers and Luke. They really got through, so I really got to congratulate them. And I think they had a little bit more help in terms of all the technology too, for the second one, because it looks massive.
Rotten Tomatoes: What is it that you like about science fiction?
Morrison: There’s no kind of rules. Once you see the aliens, it can turn into a comedy, a serious drama, or something in between. So yeah, you have those dimensions to explore.
I’m a pretty laid-back actor, and I’m not one of these ones that raises the flag all the time. So I need to shake it up a little bit. It was the action kind of thing that appealed to me, too. I told Luke, “Make sure I’m doing some action.”
(Photo by Justin Lubin / ©Disney+/Lucasfilm / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Rotten Tomatoes: Speaking of action, I do have to ask about Boba Fett.
Morrison: My lips are sealed. I can’t say too much about that!
Rotten Tomatoes: Well, I will avoid The Book of Boba Fett. But for The Mandalorian, which everyone has seen, what was it like to return to that character and do that hand-to-hand combat and do things that we hadn’t really seen in a Star Wars movie before?
Morrison: I think that was a blessing for me in a way, in terms of Boba Fett’s history. No one’s actually seen him do anything besides stand there. And of course, his claim to fame was catching the man, I guess. But other than that, he was a pretty elusive bloke. So this was an opportunity again, to work with Robert Rodriguez, who gave it a little bit of an edge. And I think Robert’s ability was to sort of make a good point of making this guy explode. After it, Jon Favreau come up to me and just said, “Congratulations, the fans loved it.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Will we see more of that Boba Fett, the hand-to-hand fighting Boba Fett, in the new series?
Morrison: Well, we can’t say too much, but we’re going to see his past and where he’s been since The Empire Strikes Back. Somebody pointed out he’s been kind of stuck in this one place, and now’s the time to actually go back in time and check out his journey and find out more about him.
But yeah, that was the advantage for me, was that we hadn’t seen him do much. And along with Robert Rodriguez as director, we were able to sort of introduce him in a dynamic way, bring him back in a dynamic way alongside the Mandalorian. It was just an honor to be asked back.
Hey, it could have gone anywhere. It’s a new time, and I think they’re looking for fresh faces. And of course, again, it was either Dave Filoni or Jon Favreau probably meeting, and then had a few discussions. I was just kind of quietly thrilled when I did do the meeting. I saw a couple of concept photos on the wall and there was a guy that looked very, very similar to me. And I kept saying, “Is that me? Yeah, it must be me. Yeah, it is me!”
And then of course, after having a good meeting with these guys and they outlined a few things, it was just wonderful. Again, it was nice to work with these people, and it was just a great opportunity. They brought Robert back in to direct a few more. There’s some wonderful directors involved. It’s hard work now, what we do now, a whole new system, with COVID in place, health and safety regulations.
I just hope I meet the expectations, because you can somehow kind of feel those things. You asked me that question earlier about Occupation – could you feel or sense anything, but definitely on The Book of Boba, you can get more of a sense and a feeling for if it’s working or not.
So I think with being involved with that last series of The Mandalorian and having a reentry, it has created a little bit more expectation. But yeah, I feel good. We’ve done some good work.
Occupation: Rainfall is in theaters and available On Demand from Friday June 11, 2021.
Thumbnail image: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images, © DreamWorks, © Buena Vista, © Universal, © 20th Century Fox