Hunt for Julian: ‘Wilderpeople’ star gets candid

The new kid on the silver screen shares his on-set experiences

With stars Sam Neill, Stan Walker and Rhys Darby on board, director Taika Waititi’s newest film Hunt for the Wilderpeople is not short of talent. But it’s an unknown face from a small suburb in Wellington that has stolen the show. With the comedy opening in cinemas this week, we get to know actor Julian Dennison, 13.

How did you feel when you heard you’d landed the part of bad boy Ricky Baker?

I was pretty stoked when I heard Taika was keen on me for the role. I met him when I was doing drug- driving ad ‘Blazed’. It’s awesome knowing he had me in mind.

Was it scary being the lead in a movie?

It wasn’t really scary – more exciting. It’s my first lead role in a feature film and it’s pretty cool!

How did you prepare for the role before shooting started?

I read the script with Mum, then we had a week of workshops with Sam, Taika and [co-star] Rachel House going through all the scenes. Sam has really helped me.

Did you have to take much time off school or anything?

I had a month off school but had to do homework to keep up. Mum worked with me on set so I could keep up.

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What do your friends think of you being in a big movie?

They are pretty excited and supportive of me, especially my close mates. They like doing hunting and other outdoors stuff so are pretty excited about this film.

Have you always wanted to be an actor?

Not really, I sort of fell into it when I did an audition at school, but I love it now. When I grow up, I want to be a director, though.

What would be your dream role?

Being a director is my dream role. I’d love to make films about New Zealand.

Would you like to move to Hollywood one day?

I would love to stay in NZ but I might change my mind. I am still at school!

Were you a big fan of Taika’s work beforehand?

I saw some of his films like Boy, Eagle vs Shark and What We Do in the Shadows. I like his comedy and quirkiness.

Did you have any particularly funny moments on set?

On the first day of filming, I had to hop out of the car and walk around the back of the shed, but when I got around the front, I tripped over these wires in the grass and faceplanted. Not a good start!

L-R: Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Julian and Sam Neill

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