I caught up with Julian Dennison, the star of Taika Waititi’s new film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Here’s your lowdown on the New Zealand film industry through the eyes of a 13-year-old.


Are there any misconceptions about being an actor?

You hear comments made about actors being really demanding and not really being down to earth. But after working with Sam Neill, Stan Walker and Rhys Darby, I found out they’re really down to earth, which I love.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople has had rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival; what were your thoughts on the night?

It was really good, I loved the premiere. You could hear the laughter from everywhere – a lot of good reaction, you could hear the laughter from miles away. My favourite part was being there with all the crew, seeing everyone’s reactions and being stopped in the street afterwards by people saying “we love you”.


In regards to social media, how do you think your following will be affected?

I feel like my accounts will sky rocket. I feel like New Zealand is going to love this film. It’s not like Boy, it’s more family friendly, it’s a really good film to watch with your kids and have a laugh.


What are some interesting aspects of the film industry that the general public don’t get to see?

You can’t just throw money at the script and expect a result. Making the film was really interesting. It’s not just having a camera; it’s having a cast. It’s a lot more about editing and lighting and sound effects. I loved seeing the dedication of all of the people involved, the animals and appreciating the little things that pull a film together.


Have you always wanted to be an actor?

I sort of fell into my first film role, where I started off with the film Shopping. I enjoyed it and got the feeling it was what I wanted to get into. I decided last year that I want to be a director. I do love being in films, but I’d love to be making them.


How did you get your role in Hunt for the Wilderpeople?

A few years ago I did the drugged driving promotion with Taika Waititi, and mum talked to me about the possibility of this role then. Then when I got the call to start filming, I was like ‘sweet, I don’t have to audition!’ It was cool that Taika already had me in mind for the role, which is something I really appreciate.


In regards to your education, what’s going on there?

It’s still about getting my education in the mix. We keep in touch with the school, and they give me homework. Just the basic stuff that will keep me up to date so I don’t have weeks and weeks of catching up. That is normally done on the set, or at the hotel afterwards.


What’s it like working with Rhys Darby and Sam Neill?

It’s so fun, working with Rhys especially. Working with Sam was a really good experience, he helped me with a lot of my lines, and helped me get into character. He’s not this really big demanding actor, he’s really down to earth, and we became really good friends. He’s such a cool guy to hang out with and he’s really funny; and the same way Rhys is. At the Sundance Film Festival, he brought his kids along and I got to meet them and his wife and I also got to meet Sam’s wife and kids and his grandson, which was quite special and cool.


If you could give a speech to the students of your school, what advice would you give them?

My speech to them would be don’t doubt yourself. If you have a dream, it’s not a dream, it’s reality, you can do it. You can go and achieve it. Just never give up, never doubt yourself and you can always do it.


What advice would you give to other young people trying to pave their way in the film industry?

If you want to be successful as an actor, firstly you’d be best to get in touch with an agency or studios. Get an agent because they are a great help. Watch out for public auditions for film roles and for advertisements in newspapers and online. There are a lot of short film festivals in New Zealand for those wanting to be a director, so we have a good country to make a beginning in.


Check out our review of the film here!