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Manu Bennett (born 10 October 1969) is an Australian-New Zealandactor. He is known for his portrayal as the Gallic gladiator Crixus in the Starz television series Spartacus. He has also appeared as Azog the Defiler in Peter Jackson's three-part film adaptation based on the The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, and as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke in The CW TV series Arrow.

Early life

Born in New Zealand, Bennett's mother was an Australian bikini model, his father a New Zealand singer. The family moved to Australia when Bennett was a few months old. On his father's side, Bennett is of Māori (specifically Te Arawaand Ngāti Kahungunu) and Irish descent. His mother is of Scottish and Spanish ancestry. He was raised mostly between Sydney and Newcastle, Australia. In 1986, Bennett returned to New Zealand to attend Te Aute College, where he played for the 1st XV. Upon returning to Australia, Bennett was chosen in the New South Wales Schoolboys Rugby Union Team. Interested in modern dancing, classical ballet and piano, Bennett quit rugby to attend university to study dance and drama, then travelled to Los Angeles on a scholarship to attend the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. In an interview, Bennett talked about the car accident that killed his mother and brother and put him in a two-week coma. He cites that because of his girlfriend, who was a ballet dancer, he got into acting and found it to be the medium to which direct his emotions saying, "Acting was my route to survival."

Career

Bennett's professional acting career began in 1993 in the teen soap Paradise Beach. He then played guest roles in other Australian TV dramas, including Water Rats,All Saints, and Beastmaster. Bennett then starred alongside Claudia Karvan in the mini series The Violent Earth, produced by French company Gaumont. In 1996, Bennett participated in theatre. In an open air production of " Lady Chatterley's Lover", based on D. H. Lawrence's novel, directed by Australian film/theatre director Robert Chuter, he played the title role, the gamekeeper Oliver Mellors in which he met model/actor Darlene Rada Ford from Bondi Beach who encouraged him to pursue more serious acting roles abroad.

In 1999, Bennett landed his first leading role in a feature film named Tomoko, shot on location in Tokyo, starring opposite Rumiko Koyanagi. In 2000, Bennett starred inXena: Warrior Princess as Marc Antony, then played a role opposite Without A Trace star Anthony La Paglia, where Bennett displayed his dancing skills as a salsa dance teacher in the award-winning Australian film, Lantana.

Bennett returned to New Zealand in 2000 to appear in the popular television drama, Shortland Street, then went on to play a cop turned lawyer in Street Legal before working with his director cousin Michael Bennett on the Māori Twilight Zone styled series Mataku before working with Richard Taylor from the Academy Award winning firm Weta Workshop on Creature Quest.

In 2003, Bennett hosted Going Straight, a New Zealand reality show. In 2006, Bennett was cast in The Marine alongside WWE wrestling star John Cena and Robert Patrick. In 2007, Bennett was cast as one of ten convicts alongside Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones in The Condemned. In 2006, Bennett was cast opposite Josh Hartnett to play Deputy Billy Kitka in the US film 30 Days of Night.

In 2010, Bennett co-starred in the new American television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, about the defiant gladiatorSpartacus. Bennett played the key role of Crixus, Champion of Capua. He was the only cast member of the show who starred on all three seasons, and the prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena as well as starring in the most episodes of this series.

In 2012, he played the villain Azog the Defiler in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and continued to portray the character in the sequels. In November 2012, Bennett was cast in the first season of Arrow as Slade Wilson, and in March 2013, he was promoted to series regular for the second season.

Personal life

Manu Bennett and Israeli Karin Horen have three daughters together.

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