Nate and Hayes

Nate and Hayes (also known as Savage Islands in New Zealand and the UK) is a 1983 swashbuckling adventure film set in the South Pacific in the late 19th century. Directed by Ferdinand Fairfax and filmed on location in Fiji and New Zealand, it starred Tommy Lee Jones, Michael O'Keefe and Jenny Seagrove.

Nate and Hayes / Savage Islands
DVD cover
Directed byFerdinand Fairfax
Produced byLloyd Phillips
Rob Whitehouse
Written byJohn Hughes
David Odell
Story byDavid Odell
Music byTrevor Jones
CinematographyTony Imi
Edited byJohn Shirley
Phillips-Whitehouse Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
November 18, 1983
Running time
96 minutes
CountryNew Zealand
BudgetNZ$7.5 million[1]
Box office$1.9 million (domestic)

It was one of several 1980s films designed to capitalize on the popularity of Indiana Jones, but Nate and Hayes was a flop at the box office.


The film tells the story of missionary Nathaniel "Nate" Williamson, taken to an island mission with his fiancée Sophie. Their ship, the Rona, is captained by the roguish William "Bully" Hayes, who also takes a liking to Sophie. When Sophie is kidnapped by slave trader Ben Pease, "Nate" teams with Hayes in order to find her. The two men enjoy a friendly rivalry for Sophie's affections, and she is to some extent torn between them, though committed to Nate.



The story was based on the adventures of real-life blackbirders Bully Hayes and Ben Pease. The character of Hayes was much softened in the film and Pease turned into a villain. The script was rewritten by John Hughes.[2]

The director was Ferdinand Fairfax, an Englishman most recently notable for his direction of the television series, Churchill — The Wilderness Years. Fairfax described the film as a tongue-in-cheek adventure in the style of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. "I'm not making Carry on Pirates or anything like that, but I think it will be a very funny film", he said.[1]

The film was entirely financed with New Zealand money but achieved distribution in the US. Producer Phillips raised money in part on the back of the success of his short film, Dollar Bottom.[1]


The film was shot in Fiji, Rotorua and Urupukapuka Island. At Urupukapuka, the producers built a set reconstructing the Port of Samoa.

Release & ReceptionEdit

The film has a cult following which seems to have encouraged the release of the film on Region 1 and Region 2 DVD, in June and November 2006 respectively.[3]


In his review, Roger Ebert gave the film one star and called it 'inexplicable', criticizing the tone and plot.[4] The New York Times gave plaudits to the performances, but felt the film was 'no fun at all', criticizing the inconsistent action and production values.[5]


Sir Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop said Savage Islands kick-started the New Zealand filmmaking boom of the 1980s.[6]

Nate and Hayes inspired Lawrence Watt-Evans to write the 1992 novella The Final Folly of Captain Dancy.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Buccaneer comedy could put NZ on world movie map". The Canberra Times. 57 (17, 238). 8 December 1982. p. 31. Retrieved 3 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ London, Michael (Nov 23, 1983). "FILM CLIPS: 'MR. MOM' AUTHOR DEFIES TINSEL TYPEWRITER IMAGE FILM CLIPS". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
  3. ^ "Robot Check".
  4. ^ "Nate and Hayes movie review & film summary (1983) | Roger Ebert".
  5. ^ "Movie Reviews". The New York Times. 2020-01-30.
  6. ^ "Oscar-winning Kiwi producer dies". 3 News NZ. January 28, 2013.
  7. ^ 'How I Came to Write "The Final Folly of Captain Dancy"' at; by Lawrence Watt-Evans; published December 2008; retrieved June 4, 2013

External linksEdit