Temuera Morrison haunted by Jake the Muss

LINGERING: Actor Temuera Morrison worries that some of the rage he channelled in bring anti-hero "Jake the Muss" to the screen may remain with him.
LINGERING: Actor Temuera Morrison worries that some of the rage he channelled in bring anti-hero "Jake the Muss" to the screen may remain with him.

Fifteen years after bringing to life one of the most memorable characters of New Zealand film, Temuera Morrison says he is still haunted by the "demon" of Jake the Muss - and worries Jake's anger and torment will be with him for life.

In a memoir to be published tomorrow, Morrison, who lost his entertainer uncle Sir Howard on Thursday, touches on how the wife-beating Jake character from 1994's Once Were Warriors took him to a dark place from which he has not fully emerged.

"I had to work hardest on Jake's anger, and now I think it's probably with me for life," says Morrison in From Haka to Hollywood, ghost-written by journalist Paul Little.

"There's a lot of torment left in there. When you go to these dark places inside you, for some reason things linger on. Maybe I need to go through some spiritual cleansing process to get rid of that guy."

Morrison told the Sunday Star-Times a dark cloud had come over his family with the death of Sir Howard. "Uncle Howard gave us so much, we're going to miss him very much."

He said the anger he unleashed to create Jake may have been responsible for two high-profile incidents, including his bashing of a teenager and an argument with his former partner, to which police were called.

In 1999, Morrison chased a group of teenagers who had set fire to a real estate sign outside his house on Auckland's North Shore.

He grabbed a 17-year-old boy by the shirt, punched him twice in the face, dragged him by the hair down a drive and bashed his head against a fencepost. It turned out the boy was not even involved in the arson.

Morrison was not convicted for the assault, instead being dealt with under the police diversion scheme. Morrison said of the incident: "I think he [Jake] might have popped out there for a brief moment. Poor kid, it's a regret."

In December 2007, concerned neighbours called police to a domestic dispute between Morrison and then partner Peata Melbourne. She later told a women's magazine how frightened she felt as the argument spiralled out of control.

Morrison said of that incident: "Jake had to quickly run out of the house and disappear and hide in the trees and cool down a bit."

He had only just returned from making a film in Bulgaria and was going through a stressful separation from Melbourne. "Show me the man who's very calm in those situations."

Morrison said filming Warriors was an emotional rollercoaster. "I created that character, it comes from me really. I created this demon of this character, all that kind of stuff I had to draw on."

He said he needed to work on cleansing Jake from his mind, and believed that a "shamanic experience" might help. "I just think it's one of those things that needs a little bit more work. Sometimes I can twitch into an aggressive mode, just like that. It's not there every day, just every now and again."

Not helping matters is that when he travels overseas, he is recognised not as Tem Morrison, but Jake the Muss.

"I just got back from Rarotonga. Over there it was 'Jake the Muss, Jake, Jake, Jake' everywhere I went.'

But Morrison is proud of the role. "It was the one thing I stood out in, I guess; there's always that one movie. It was one hell of a role wasn't it?"

Sunday Star Times