The capital city of and most populous urban area in New Zealand, Wellington’s 393,400 residents are an interesting mix of professionals, students, kids and parents; however, what sets Wellington apart from the rest is the list of fascinating, famous people who once called this city home. Here is a list of some of the most famous individuals who were either born or once resided in the urban oasis that many refer to as the “coolest little capital in the world.”
Best known for his starring roles in the films A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, Robin Hood and L.A. Confidential, Russell Crowe was born on April 7, 1964 in Wellington. The son of Jocelyn Yvonne and John Alexander Crowe, Russell secured his first acting job at the tender age of five when he was hired to read a single line on the television series Spyforce. His career took off in 1992 when Crowe was cast in the controversial and critically acclaimed Romper Stomper. Fortune smiled on Russell Crowe, but this charismatic leading man is also known for his several run-ins with law enforcement and his alleged 2006 affair with actress Meg Ryan, whom Crowe met while the two starred together in the film Proof of Life.
Otherwise known as the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and numerous other films, Peter Jackson began his life very humbly in October 1961. He grew up in a small coastal town 30 km away from Wellington. Jackson’s love of films began early, and at the age of 16, the future Academy Award winner quit school and began working on his first movie. Although Jackson wrote and directed several films, including King Kong and Heavenly Creatures, his name will be forever linked to the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was shot in New Zealand over a two-year period. Aside from his work in film, Jackson is well-known for his philanthropy, including his sizable donations to stem cell research and the Australian War Memorial, and his infamous taste in clothing.
If you’ve never heard the name Kate Sheppard before, simply look down at an NZ 10-dollar note and you’ll see her smiling face looking back at you. Originally born in Liverpool in 1847, Kate Sheppard is one of the most controversial and historically significant women to ever set foot in Wellington. Known for her work in the New Zealand suffrage movement, Kate Sheppard was a no-nonsense woman who never had a problem expressing her opinion, even in the male-dominated parliament. After women were given the right to vote in New Zealand, Sheppard turned her attention to the National Council of Women, an organization whose sole purpose was to improve the lives of women throughout the country. Kate Sheppard is a true hero in the eyes of many New Zealanders, a fact that is evident upon visiting her modest grave in Christchurch’s Addington Cemetery.
A key figure in the French Resistance during World War II, Nancy Wake was born in Wellington on August 30, 1912. The youngest of six siblings, Wake moved with her family to Sydney in 1914 and attended a household arts school until she ran away to become a nurse at age 16. With a modest inheritance in hand, Nancy Wake traveled the globe and became a well-known figure in the French Resistance after marrying Henri Edmond Fiocca in November 1939. After the war, Wake was bestowed several honours by the French and New Zealand governments, including being appointed a knight in the Legion of Honour in 1970. Nancy Wake passed away from a chest infection on August 7, 2011, at the ripe old age of 98.
Wellington is the birthplace and former home of some amazingly gifted and fearless individuals. If you ever decide to visit Wellington, don’t forget to be polite to everyone you meet, because they might just be the next great actor, director, politician or world leader.
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Sampson Morrison is a blogger and life-long resident of Wellington, New Zealand. He’s currently writing a guidebook of historical and notable sites throughout his picturesque hometown.
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