Born in New Zealand, Manu is of Arawa and Kahungunu Maori descent. His family took him to Australia, which is where his mothercame from, while he was still a baby. He grew up in Newcastle, but eventually moved back to New Zealand. He went to high school at Kotara High in NSW Australia. In 1991, he received an Associate Diploma in Dance and Drama at the University of New South Wales. From 1995-6, Manu attended the Lee Stasberg Institute.
Manu was always interested in athletics and acting. His father, Ted Bennett, was a singer. One of his first achievments was a how to breakdance book featuring himself and a friend showing different break moves. Jon studied acting, dance, and music at the University of New South Wales and at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles.
His acting career began on a teen soap called Paradise Beach, then went on to starring roles in several TV dramas before he landed his first feature film, Lantana, opposite Anthony La Paglia. Manu then travelled to Japan to shoot a film named Tomoko opposite award-winning Japanese actress Rumiko Koyangi. He then returned to his native New Zealand to star in a police drama called Street Legal.
In 2005 Manu was cast opposite Robert Patrick in The Marine, then in 2006 was in The Condemned along with Vinnie Jones and Stone Cold Steve Austin. His next film was 30 Days Of Night, a vampire movie set in Barrow, Alaska, directed by David Slade, and had him acting alongside Josh Hartnett & Melissa George.