Sam play­ing it straight in funny flick

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Film -

WHILE New Zealand box of­fice hit Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple has left au­di­ences and crit­ics dou­bled over with laugh­ter, star Sam Neill doesn’t view it as a com­edy.

Al­though not com­pletely off-point, the film, about or­phan Ricky Baker (Julian Den­ni­son) who is dropped off at a ru­ral prop­erty in the care of cou­ple Bella (Rima Te Wi­ata) and Hec­tor Faulkner (Sam Neill) but is soon on the run from the law in far­ci­cal fash­ion, does have som­bre mo­ments.

Neill plays the grumpy “straight” role to the amus­ingly cheeky and gang­ster-ob­sessed teenager Ricky.

“I never saw it as a com­edy; I saw it as a drama that’s very funny,” Neill said.

“(It’s) im­por­tant that (my char­ac­ter) keeps the film grounded; he is not a straight-up-and-down mem­ber of the com­mu­nity.

“They have cast the fun­ni­est peo­ple in New Zealand; if ev­ery­one does funny then it just flies away.

“It is about aban­don­ment, and loss; chil­dren marginalised.

“I think it has more res­o­nance be­cause it has very se­ri­ous un­der­tones.”

With an al­ready im­pres­sive body of work un­der his belt, Neill in 1993 (the year block­buster Juras­sic Park was re­leased) branched out and added wine­maker to his re­sume, open­ing Two Pad­docks.

“I do taste wines from other re­gions to an ex­tent, but there is only so much a liver can take,” he said.

De­spite 23 years in the wine­mak­ing busi­ness, WA wine re­gions have so far eluded him.

“I have not been to the Swan Val­ley; I have been in­vited to the wine fes­ti­val in Mar­garet River a cou­ple of times but have not had the time to get there, but I do love the wines from there,” he said.

“They are com­pletely dif­fer­ent to what we pro­duce in New Zealand, so we are no way in com­pe­ti­tion.”

With more than 40 years of film and tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances on his fil­mog­ra­phy, a career he calls “di­verse”, one would think Neill had done it all, but not just yet.

“I have never done a western be­fore and at this late stage I get to be a proper cow­boy,” he said.

“I am do­ing horse train­ing in Aus­tralia for a se­ries called The Son.

“Aus­tralia is the first place I worked away from home, so I am at­tached to Aus­tralia.”

Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple is in cine­mas on May 26.

Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple.

FILM with Julian Wright

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