SAM GOES HUNT­ING FOR A BIG HIT

Sam Neill’s lat­est project is a gem

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

Few films re­leased this year will be as heart­warm­ing, funny and down­right hu­man as the New Zealand movie Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple. The off­beat com­edy drama, writ­ten and di­rected by Taika Waititi, stars vet­eran Sam Neill and new­comer Ju­lian Den­ni­son as a mis­un­der­stood pair thrown to­gether and then caught up in a man­hunt in the beau­ti­ful but harsh wilder­ness of New Zealand. Neill, star of films in­clud­ing Juras­sic Park and The Pi­ano, takes on the role of grumpy old un­cle Hector in a story based very loosely on the book Wild Pork and Wa­ter­cress by Barry Crump. It didn’t take too much to con­vince him that the film was a win­ner. Neill told 7DAYS: “I re­ally like Taika’s work so I knew it would be some­thing I would want to do. And at first read­ing, I thought peo­ple are go­ing to love this. But still you can’t ever tell. For one thing I didn’t know if I could pull it off as Hec. But I sup­pose that’s the best thing re­ally. If you think you can do some­thing stand­ing on your head, you shouldn’t do it. I thought ‘this should be dif­fi­cult and so I should do it’. But what sur­prised us is just how much peo­ple were en­tranced by it, and the warmth that came back from peo­ple watch­ing the film.” Sam’s Hec is the per­fect foil for Den­ni­son’s Ricky, a young or­phan un­der the mi­cro­scope of child wel­fare ser­vices. The pair com­bine to hi­lar­i­ous ef­fect with some gen­uinely funny di­a­logue de­spite some sad and af­fect­ing mo­ments in the script. Neill ad­mits that the dou­ble act had been his main con­cern ahead of shoot­ing. “That was the only ques­tion mark on my mind be­fore we started the film - will the kid work? Be­cause if the kid doesn't work then the film doesn't work. But it was ap­par­ent to me on day one that the film would work. “Ju­lian is a nat­u­ral and it does come to him nat­u­rally be­cause he is a funny kid and a very like­able kid too. “We were friends from the be­gin­ning. I sat be­side Ju­lian at the Sun­dance Fes­ti­val screen­ing (the film’s pre­miere) and we were both laugh­ing at our own work, which is weird. We would dig

each other in the ribs when we thought the other was be­ing par­tic­u­larly funny!” Grumpy old Hec is a real gem. Neill, 69, had very lit­tle trou­ble when it came to in­spi­ra­tion for the part. He ex­plains: “Grow­ing up in New Zealand and work­ing on farms, agri­cul­tural work in the hol­i­days and that kind of thing, in­evitably you would meet and know a lot of peo­ple like Hec over the years. Th­ese peo­ple on the mar­gins. So I didn’t re­ally need to dig very deep. I just had to put my­self in his skin. I knew that kind of char­ac­ter well in my past - the kind who don’t say too much. It is not that they don’t think. In­stead, they might not have a lot to say - to you.” chris.fraser@7days.ae

DOU­BLE ACT: Ju­lian Den­ni­son and Sam Neill team up as Ricky and un­cle Hec in Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple

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