He's been rubbing shoulders with royals and mixing with Hollywood stars at the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow's heart lies with a down-to-earth Kiwi project.
While attending the film’s international premieres this week and next week, Mark (55) is also starring alongside an all-star Kiwi cast in a play for charity. The star, who plays Dori the dwarf in The Hobbit, also appears via video feed in Mary’s Christmas Yarn, a production directed by his old pal, former Shortland Street star Alison Quigan, which is raising money for ChildFund New Zealand.
The script was written by a group of Blenheim schoolgirls, who won ChildFund’s school scriptwriting competition Pens Against Poverty. Guiding the girls was the ChildFund charity book Mary’s Christmas Yarn, penned by Alison and other well-known Kiwis including Jeremy Corbett, Hilary Barry and Mirama Kamo, Shortland Street stars Laura Hill and Harry McNaughton as well as acting legend George Henare.
"I love this project just as much as The Hobbit... it’s very silly and funny," says Mark.
When the Weekly sits in on a reading of the script at the show's venue, Auckland’s St Matthew-in-the-City church, the room echoes with the nonstop natter of actors. Discussions are interrupted when Alison notices Laura's new shoes.
"This is how we work, we talk for a while, Laura tells us to focus and then we get distracted by something shiny again,” jokes Alison. “Then George tells us a story about someone amazing he worked with and we all go 'Oooh'.”
Harry worked with Alison on Shorty and, like all the actors involved, he jumped at the chance to collaborate with her. “It says a lot about Ali that she was able to get us here,” he says.
Although Mark is heartbroken he’s unable to attend the play, he's loved working with Sir Peter Jackson again. The pair first collaborated together on Meet the Feebles 23 years ago.
“I thought to myself recently, ‘I’m on this film with Sir Peter Jackson – does it get any better than that?’ But it does: my two-year-old grandson,” says Mark. “I’ve shown him photos [of me as Dori] but when he gets to about three he might get it."