THE burgeoning future of Newcastle-raised actor Manu Bennett has been thrown into chaos after a vicious jibe about his cancer-stricken partner allegedly prompted the star to assault a gatecrasher.
The Spartacus and The Hobbit star has been left with a misdemeanour assault charge hanging over his head after he allegedly left the man with a bloody nose during an early-morning after-party at a comic convention in Texas.
San Antonio police charged the former Merewether High School student after the alleged victim told them Bennett had been kicked out of the party for being drunk before he confronted the man and punched him in the face.
But the arresting police are now being criticised for failing to take statements from several witnesses, including Underbelly star Matt Nable, who have since given different versions of the altercation.
Speaking at Comic Convention at the weekend, Bennett said: “I’m humiliated, for myself, for my family, for representing Maori culture”.
Witnesses claim Bennett had become highly offended by comments the alleged victim had repeatedly made regarding Bennett’s partner Karin Horen’s battle with cancer.
They have also disputed the alleged victim’s claims that Bennett was ever asked to leave the party, instead claiming the victim had gatecrashed the hotel room and was drunk.
‘‘[Bennett] was very, very offended about what the man had said to him,’’ Mr Nable told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘He told him that it was horribly disrespectful and when Manu has told him he would be telling the organiser, the guy has just come back with ‘‘go and do it’’.
‘‘What he did was out of character but he was obviously very offended by it.’’
Another witness, Autumn Harris, said she had heard some people ‘‘talking bad’’ about Bennett before the voices were raised.
‘‘From there the next thing was Manu getting more upset and was yelling at the guy, again it was Manu defending himself to me, and he was yelling at the guy, but the guy wasn’t backing down to the situation and was making it worse,’’ Ms Harris said.
Bennett was raised in Nelson Bay and Newcastle before returning to his native New Zealand. Fairfax Media’s Sunday Times reported that convention agent, Chris Lewis, said they had been at an after-party hosted by Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor in Game of Thrones, and later retired to the convention photographer’s hotel room for drinks.
‘‘Everyone was just kind of relaxed and chatting and this guy shows up out of nowhere, incredibly drunk, no one knew who he was,’’ Mr Lewis said. ‘‘He was being very aggressive. He was hounding a couple of the female staff members for their room numbers, saying ‘we’re going to go to your room after this’. He was trying to hand out drinks. He was just a really weird, creepy guy.’’
After the man approached him for a third time, ‘‘literally inches from my face’’, Mr Lewis left the room.
He said he returned after the alleged assault and was present while police were interviewing the complainant.
‘‘He says ‘I’m really drunk, I don’t know what happened, all I know is I leaned over and said something to Manu, I don’t even remember what I said but it made him really mad.’’
In 1985, Bennett lost his mother Jean in a car accident, which he was also involved in, after the family's car was hit by a drunk driver.
The family's loss deepened weeks later when his older brother Stephen, who had suffered severe brain-stem damage in a separate car accident at Nelson Bay three years earlier which put him in a coma, died a month after June's death.
The 16-year-old threw himself into sport and excelled as an athlete, particularly in football, later going on to play first-grade rugby for the Wanderers Football Club.
Around this time he began dating a ballerina who encouraged him to take up dance at the studio of respected Newcastle instructor Marie Walton-Mahon.
Many Novocastrians will also remember Manu Bennett as John Bennett, an enthusiastic break dancer who used to perform on a sheet of lino in Hunter Street Mall in the mid-80s.