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SAM NEILL: Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Julian Dennison and Sam Neill in Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Julian Dennison and Sam Neill in Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Director Taika Waititi’s (What We Do In Shadows) latest film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, hits cinemas on Thursday, May 26. DAVID O’CONNELL chats with its star, Sam Neill, who plays the belligerent bushie, Hector ‘Hec’ Faulkner, about filming in the bush, his young co-star, and if there are any roles he still yearns.

Based on the popular novel by Barry Crump, the film adaptation of Hunt For The Wilderpeople held numerous attractions for actor, Sam Neill, the most obvious being the director.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on him for a while,” he says. “So when the script came I hardly needed to read it, I was flattered to get it.”

The role is a New Zealand archetype, the “silent bugger from the bush. I’m not particularly known for comedy,” Neill laughs, “but I realised my job was not to be funny. It’s a bit like erecting a marquee on a windy hill. The funny people are the tent, and I’m the guy hammering the pegs in the ground so it doesn’t blow away. Someone’s got to ground it. I really don’t have a sense of humour. I just find the world mildly amusing in a general sort of way. If I’m not perplexed by it.”

Filming saw the crew shooting in some remote locations. “I grew up with a bit of bushcraft, so I’m not a complete neophyte when it comes to outdoors. We were working fast as it was winter. No sitting around in trailers for something to happen. Just as well, as there’s no trailers to sit in. As long as you have a cup of tea and a place to sit, I’m fine.”

As for his young co-star, apparently he wasn’t star-struck in the slightest by the Jurassic Park veteran. “Julian (Dennison) is very funny. He wasn’t in anyway awed by me. Probably because he’s never seen anything I’ve been in. In addition to that I’m pretty juvenile… so I think it was a meeting of like minds.”

The film has opened well in New Zealand, breaking box office records. “It’s been received with a lot of warmth. People have been laughing from beginning to end, and breaking out in spontaneous applause. You never get that.”

With a varied career, in which he has played everything from the Antichrist to Cardinal Worsley, Neill still had one role he desired. “The only thing I haven’t done is a proper Western, and I’m heading to Austin Texas to be in a 10-part Western for AMC. That’s my last unresolved ambition.”

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