It was only a few years ago that Temuera Morrison would turn up to a house party in Rotorua, with a mini tanker of booze attached to the back of a pick-up truck.
So you could be forgiven for thinking the New Zealand actor was one of the least likely choices to front the Dry July campaign, with participants asked to give up alcohol for a month to raise money for cancer patients across the country.
“To be perfectly honest, I have drunk enough for three lifetimes, so a month off is good for me,” Tem says. “I’m one of these guys who is kind of weak. I’d fold easily if there wasn’t something making me do it. I need a cause to make it concrete.” But rather than mourn a month without a drink, Tem, currently going back and forward between Los Angeles and his home in Rotorua, is using the time to “buff up” – just like he did when he took part in 2012. “I used last July to get in shape. I lost that little bit of weight around here,” he says, pointing to his stomach.
“I’m going to do that again – focus on getting fit. It’s those couple of beers at the end of the day that do it. I felt fantastic after Dry July last year. Plus, it’s a great cause.”
Although participants can buy a “Golden Ticket” (a pass that allows one day of drinking), Tem’s determined to get through the whole month “properly”. “I had a wedding last year in Rarotonga and bought a Golden Ticket,” he remembers. “But I didn’t use it. The way things were going, there was no reason to drink. I just didn’t feel the need.”
Drinking has always been part of Tem’s life, and he remembers a time when he thought binge drinking was normal.
“I come from a heavy drinking background,” he says. “All my family members did it, except my grandmother. She called alcohol ‘kaka’ and used to say to us all, ‘Give up that bloody kaka!’ Of course, we never listened. I used to think people were stupid if they didn’t drink – that something was wrong with them. Looking back, it was a strange mentality!”
But as he’s got older – “and wiser!” he’s quick to interject – Tem’s attitude to alcohol has changed.
“I guess it comes with maturity,” he says. “I just don’t need it any more.”
To participate or donate, visit nz.dryjuly.com