Prominent Kiwi film director Toa Fraser reveals he has Parkinson's five years after diagnosis

Toa Fraser
Toa Fraser has revealed his five-year battle with Young Onset Parkinson's. Photo credit: Toa Fraser / Twitter

New Zealand director and playwright Toa Fraser has revealed he is battling Young Onset Parkinson's, five years after his diagnosis.

The director, who rose to prominence with the film No. 2 in 2006, disclosed his disease in a candid string of posts to Twitter on Friday afternoon.

Fraser, who attended Auckland's Sacred Heart College and the University of Auckland, says he kept his diagnosis quiet for years.

"Mine is one of the many of faces of Young Onset Parkinson's, an (as yet) incurable brain disease. I was diagnosed five years ago. I've kept it quiet until today," he writes.

His decision to reveal his illness coincides with Parkinson's Awareness Month, which is held to raise awareness about the disease every April.

"I'm sick of hiding. I guess #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth is as good as time as any to start talking more widely about it. It sucks but it doesn't define me."

Fraser says the detection of the disease followed years of misdiagnoses and "random questions" targeted at his shaking and the changes in his voice.

"It hasn't been easy. It's hard on relationships, it's hard on my kids. Those closest to me have been unfaltering, discrete and kind. I've also learned not everybody can come on this journey with me. For the last five years I've kept it quiet. Buried it as much as I could," Fraser says.

"It affects my movement, but over the last few years of living with it, I've worked with some of the world's best actors, dancers, stunties and athletes all over the world in the pursuit of stories to transcend this bullshit."

Fraser went on to name his extensive list of achievements in recent years, including his work on the 2014 film The Dead Lands, starring Boy's James Rolleston, as well as television shows Daredevil, Penny Dreadful, The Rookie, Titans, The Affair and The Terror.

"I'm deeply grateful to all the showrunners, producers, execs, writers, cast and crew who have looked beyond the stern face, the shaking, the dyskinesia and the quiet voice, choosing instead to see the soul, the joy, the athleticism, the grit and the strength I bring to my work," he says.

"The disease makes me a better director. I focus on what's important. A producer in LA said I've got a "quiet power". I like that. But on this, I'm not going to be quiet anymore. Nine in 10 people who live with PD experience discrimination. There is no cure. There is work to be done." 

Fraser also directed the British comedy film Dean Spanley in 2008, starring New Zealand actor Sam Neill. Five years later, his film Giselle was selected to be screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.