“Shall We Begin!”, the battlecry of The undefeated Gaul Crixus first bought Manu Bennett’s voice & acting career to international attention. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011) spoke a universal language that slowly but surely captured a massive audience. The the show lost lead actor Andy Whitfield to cancer, Bennett’s pivotal role, transitioning from Spartacus’ nemesis to a slave rebel leader, he was credited for maintaining throughout, the heart & strength of the series. Producer/Director Peter Jackson then employed Bennett to portray Orc Leader “Azog – The Defiler”. At the World Premiere of The Hobbit, Peter Jackson told press that Bennett’s was the “The Breakout Performance”. Although many Tolkein fans failed to recognize him beneath the CGI veneer, Bennett’s looming presence, hunting down Thorin Oakenshield & culminating in the ultimate face-off, where both characters die, Bennett entered the catalogue of the great cinematic Villain Performances. DC Comic soldier of fortune, Slade Wildon aka Deathstroke had slumbered for two decades until Bennett reprised the role on the CW series Arrow. Many DC fans declared Bennett as the best villain on the hit series when he established a heartfelt dominant core relationship with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). The two befriended upon the Island of Lian Yu before an incident with a super-drug called Mirakuru transformed Slade into the archetypal good guy/bad guy Deathstroke. Originally penned by Marv Wolfman & illustrated by George Perez, Deathstroke has now become a hot property for the DC Universe with Tony Daniels illustrating the new series of Deathstroke comic books & a Warner Bros Deathstroke feature film pending. When MTV shifted their focus toward producing original series they selected Bennett to portray the Dark Druid Allanon in the newly acquired Shannara Chronicles Series. Bennett had just the right mix of stoicism, angst & dramatic suave sought by the Shannara producers & author Terry Brooks. Manu Bennett is of Maori, Scottish, English, French & Finish ancestry. Bennett was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Bennett’s great grandfather Frederick Augustus Bennett was the first Maori Bishop of the Anglican Church in New Zealand. Bennett’s namesake Manuhuia Bennett (grandfather) was also ordained an Anglican Bishop. The Bennett name has roots dating back to a French Benedictine Monastery established in Northumbria in Northern England circa 500AD. The monastery was subsequently turned into a defensive fort named Chillingham Castle. With the advent of surnames circa 1000AD, the name Bennett was derived from Benedictine.
Manu Bennett’s father Charles Edward Tiwha (Ted) Bennett was a popular New Zealand singer who recorded a No.1 hit “Clap Your Hands” & several other hits in the early 1960’s. Bennett’s mother Jean Clark was a bikini model from Australia who paraded the very first two piece bikini for designer Paula Stafford. Bennett’s parents met during the Spring Blossom Festival in Hastings New Zealand. Bennett has two older siblings, Stephen & Rachel. The Bennett family moved to Australia in 1970. Jean Bennett nee Clark, was the winner of the Miss Paradise Beach, a swimsuit title held on the Gold Coast of Australia. Bennett’s first acting job was on a series titled Paradise Beach, where he played stud, surf lifesaver, iron man Kirk Barsby. Bennett’s mother, Jean, died in a car accident in 1985. His brother Stephen suffered injuries in a separate car accident & died only two weeks later.
During his schooling Manu Bennett trained as a dancer & musician & well as playing Rugby Union. Bennett was selected for the First XV for Te Aute College a Maori Boy school know for their strong rugby union history. On return to Australia Bennett was selected for the NSW Schoolboys Rugby Union Team & to trial for the Australian National Team. Bennett was prevented from attending the National trial outs due to a prior commitment to a ballet production of Swan Lake in which he had to perform the male lead. In the the 90’s Bennett had to choose between a ballet scholarship in New York or an acting scholarship at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Bennett decided to pursue his acting career & attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles.
Manu has appeared on various TV dramas & feature films, including multiple award winning “Lantana,” opposite Anthony La Paglia. His first physical role was with appearing opposite Jon Cena on “The Marine”. WWE was impressed with Bennett so gave him a role in their second feature film The Condemned starring opposite “Stone Cold” Steve Austin & Vinnie Jones. Rob Tapert cast Bennett as Marc Antony in Xena Warrior Princess, then opposite Josh Hartnett in the Vampire Horror 30 Days Of Night, then was pivotal in Bennett getting the role of Crixus in the series Spartacus.
Previous TV credits include starring roles in successful New Zealand productions “Shortland Street,” “Street Legal,” “Mataku,” “Creature Of Quest,” “Going Straight,” and as Marc Antony opposite his “Spartacus” co-star Lucy Lawless in Tapert and Raimi’s hit series “Xena: Warrior Princess.”
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