A celebration of iconic Kiwi entertainer Billy T James is being created for the big screen in the new feature film, Billy T: Te Movie, directed by Ian Mune. The film will be released in cinemas nationwide on August 18th to commemorate 20 years since Billy’s death.
Billy T: Te Movie celebrates the life of the legendary Billy T James, New Zealand’s best-loved entertainer. The film explores Billy’s extraordinary talent as musician, singer, comedian, actor, writer and artist . . . it even attempts to uncover the source of his trademark giggle. With humour and love, the film tells of Billy’s meteoric rise to national fame and his tragic downfall into ill-health and financial collapse.
Featuring digitally re-mastered footage of Billy’s performances and never-seen-before archival images, Billy T’s story is set alongside interviews with his family, friends and colleagues. Audiences will leave with laughter in their hearts and tears in their eyes
Director Ian Mune (What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?) cast Billy as the cult favourite hard-case Maori Mexican, ‘The Tainuia Kid’, in his 1984 movie Came a Hot Friday.
Billy T: Te Movie is produced by Tom Parkinson and Robert Boyd-Bell through their company BTJ Movie Ltd. Parkinson discovered Billy performing cabaret in the Avondale Rugby League Club in 1978 and cast him as Dexter Fitzgibbon in the television variety series Radio Times and produced the TV series The Billy T James Show. Boyd-Bell is a long-time television documentary producer and author of New Zealand Television – the First 25 Years. The film is financed by the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Air and Sony Pictures, who are distributing it.
The script is by Mune and Phil Gifford (one of the writers of the original Billy T James Show), research by Dianne Lindesay and Kaitiaki (Maori liaison) is Tearepa Kahi, who directed the award-winning Taua. Director of photography is Waka Attewell (Starlight Hotel), production designer Rob Gillies (The World’s Fastest Indian), costume designer Gavin McLean (The Maori Merchant of Venice) and editor Margot Francis (Memory & Desire) with post-production at Images & Sound Post.
Billy T James (1949-1991) toured internationally as a member of The Maori Volcanics showband in the 1970s before becoming a television star with Radio Times followed by several series titled The Billy T James Show between 1981 and 1990.
He won the Feltex Best Entertainment Award in 1984, and the Entertainer of the Decade Award in 1985.
In 1986 he was awarded an MBE for services to entertainment and the NZ Film and Television Awards best supporting actor for Came A Hot Friday, plus best comedy performance and best entertainment programme for his TV series. In 1990 he received the Variety Club Golden Microphone (aka “Benny”) Award for outstanding contribution to entertainment.