2003-01-11 13:11
NEW PLYMOUTH New Zealand, Jan 11 Sapa-AFP

Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise pressed noses with Maori leaders here Saturday in a traditional welcome to New Zealand for the shooting of his new film.

"This is very beautiful, very beautiful," Cruise said after the Maori welcome in the North Island town of New Plymouth.

The actor chuckled as tribe members translated humorous remarks from a local Maori elder's speech and took part in the traditional hongi greeting -- the pressing of noses -- with a dozen tribal members. He even spoke a little Maori.

"Thank you for welcoming us." he said. "I must say that I enjoy the (Maori) culture so much and I'm looking forward to learning more about it. It's very special and I will never forget it."

Cruise is on his first visit to New Zealand for the filming of "The Last Samurai" -- an epic film about Japanese Samurai culture.

At a press conference here attended by nearly 80 media from New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Europe he was relaxed and chatty as he spoke about the film.

"The Last Samurai" is being shot at seven different locations in the remote Taranaki region, on the west coast of the North Island, that is dominated by Mount Taranaki, which looks like Japan's Mount Fujiyama.

Director Edward Zwick said Taranaki's largely unspoilt environment, compared to that of over-populated Japan, was one of the main reasons it was decided to base the film in New Zealand.

Cruise said the film imparted values of responsibility, honour and service to others that were missing in modern America where people were too ready to blame others for their troubles.

Despite rumours that Hollywood's highest-paid actor would keep remain well out of the public eye during his visit, Cruise said he was keen to try surfing, hiking and mountain-climbing in the area.




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