Sinking her teeth into first role - at 98

BRITTANY MANN
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Ethel Robinson
ROSS GILBIN/FAIRFAX NZ
FILM DEBUT: Rita Angus Retirement Village resident Ethel Robinson, 98, has landed her first role in the vampire movie , What We Do In Shadows. Margot Boock, left, from the village, also has a part.

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A well-preserved resident of Rita Angus Retirement Village in Kilbirnie, Wellington, has made her debut in Taika Waititi's vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows - at the age of 98.

Though some of the filming took place at night at Rita Angus, Ethel Robinson has managed to keep her involvement a secret from fellow residents for the past two years. Her role will remain under wraps until the Wellington premiere tonight.

She said she was looking forward to finally seeing the film. Though she lives independently at Rita Angus, where she is one of the most tech-savvy residents, she was afraid she might die before seeing herself on the big screen.

Rita Angus sales adviser Margot Boock was approached by the film-makers in 2012. "They wanted a woman of a certain age . . ."

"Ancient!" interjected Robinson.

"But also somebody who was mobile and lively and would be up for doing something like going in a movie, because not everyone would do that. I thought immediately of Ethel," Boock said.

Robinson responded with a nonchalant "Oh, why not. At my age, I can do what I like."

The former teacher has no formal acting training, other than "hundreds of years" spent acting out stories for Maori pupils who could not speak English.

She never saw a script and ad-libbed her lines with apparent ease.

In a serendipitous twist of fate, it turned out she and Waititi came from the same area in the East Cape. "It was nice to see somebody from up there," she said.

She will attend tonight's premiere at the Embassy Theatre with an intergenerational entourage that includes her Palmerston North-based grandson Andrew and great-grandson Diamond, 14.

Boock, who has a small part in the film, will also accompany Robinson to the event.

Robinson was having her hair streaked purple especially for the occasion. She will complete the look with purple lipstick and a corsage.

- What We Do in the Shadows opens in cinemas tomorrow.

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