Before they were famous faces

FRESH FACED: Russell Crowe in his early persona Russ le Roq.
FRESH FACED: Russell Crowe in his early persona Russ le Roq.

There was a time when the world was unaware of the existence of Russell Crowe, when most New Zealanders did not know who John Key was, and when one of Piri Weepu's main claims to fame was his work with a road safety lollipop.

But even back then they were getting their faces on television, and those moments, along with other Kiwis who have gone onto bigger things have been brought together in a new collection by NZ On Screen.  (Please note: NZ on Screen are experiencing some technical problems at the moment, if certain links won't load, please check back later).

Among those making youthful appearances in the Before They Were Famous collection are Kimbra, Rachel Hunter, Phil Keoghan, Eric Murray, Paul Henry, Karl Urban, Sam Neill, Lucy Lawless, Rebecca Gibney, Flight of the Conchords, Martin Henderson and Paul Holmes.

Crowe may be best known nowadays for the way he looks in a gladiator costume, but here he appears in a 1985 screening of music show Shazam! preening as Russ Le Roq with his band Roman Antix.

In a 2001 excerpt of What Now? Kimbra is seen laying down her first vocal track, while she features in a 2002 NZ Music Commission piece titled Kimbra - Berkley Middle School.

No surprises that Key's 1987 appearance is in a Close Up piece on forex dealers, when the squash-playing accountancy graduate was aged 25.

Hunter was not too far away from super model status when she takes to the catwalk for the 1986 Benson and Hedges Fashion Design Awards.

While Weepu does make an appearance in Heartland, Wainuiomata, the 1994 programme is more notable for introducing the country to tiger slipper-wearing Chloe Reeves, who became quite well known for a time. The young Weepu is seen directing traffic with a road safety lollipop.

Phil Keoghan, now known for criss-crossing the world as the host of Amazing Race, turns up twice. In the 2006 programme No Opportunity Wasted - Tough Guy episode, the gang of hardmen competing in old school challenges includes future rowing champion Eric Murray. In a 1990 episode of after school show 3:45 Live! Keoghan, along with Hine Elder, interviews a few well known musicians.

An episode of Homeward Bound from 1992 includes a young Karl Urban, long before he gained fame as Bones McCoy in Star Trek. His performance as helmet-clad law enforcer Judge Dredd will be hitting New Zealand screens next week.

Neill shows up as a bearded bohemian in a 1971 tele-drama called The City of No, while future warrior princess Lawless is seen in her television debut in a perfume ad spoof.

Packed to the Rafters star Gibney appears in a 1983 episode of kidult drama Sea Urchins, while in Strangers from 1989  Henderson debuts as a boy in  a gang of plucky teens plunged into a world of spies, jewel thieves and magicians.

Current affairs broadcaster Holmes appears as a moustached wannabe lothario in 1972 teen pregnancy drama Going Up North for a While.

As for Flight of the Conchords, they are shown heading for the 2002 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in an episode of The Living Room, as well as appearing in an episode of Pulp Comedy from 2000.