Director Taika Waititi pictured on the set of the movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Director Taika Waititi pictured on the set of the movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Taika Waititi's new film is full of heart and rebellion

TAIKA Waititi's new film Hunt for the Wilderpeople will have you itching to release your inner rebel.

The Kiwi comedy stars Julian Dennison and Sam Neill as a teen and his foster uncle who lead authorities on a manhunt through the beautiful wilds of the New Zealand bush.

The film is loosely based on Barry Crump's Wild Pork and Watercress, which Waititi was originally asked to develop into a screenplay in 2005. Waititi resurrected the project after meeting Crump's family three years ago.

Anyone familiar with the book will immediately recognise the humour and quirkiness Waititi has injected into the story.

"The book is a slow burner. It takes place over a few years... there's no immediacy," Waititi tells Weekend.

"I wanted something where people could get invested a bit more emotionally and have a laugh."

The film is set to make young actor Julian Dennison, whom Waititi had previously worked with on an award-winning advertising campaign, an instant star.

"I think he realised early on the entire film is based on him and him making himself available," he says.

"He worked really, really hard. He just never let us down. He was 12 years old having to wander through the bush and remember lines; he's a real trooper."

Hunt for the Wilderpeople has a strong visual style reminiscent of Wes Anderson with touches of Quentin Tarantino in the soundtrack.

"From the start I wanted an '80s synth feel a bit like the chase adventure films in the '80s," Waititi says.

"I'm a huge fan of the soundtrack from Peter Weir's Gallipoli. I wanted to embrace that whole filmmaking style from how they moved the camera to the characters they had."



Sam Neill and Julian Dennison in a scene from the movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Sam Neill and Julian Dennison in a scene from the movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

"So far people have really fallen in love with it," he says.

"These days when there are so many superhero movies, I was interested to see if there's an appetite for this sort of film."

It's funny Waititi mentions superhero movies, since he's about to direct one.

He will be based on the Gold Coast for the rest of this year to helm Marvel's third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi doesn't seem phased about heading up a film that is expected to gross hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.

"It's just longer and a little different and there are more people involved, but ultimately it's the same as any of my other films," he says.

"You've got a bunch of people coming together wanting to tell a good story. It's just a bit more money and more time (with Thor). I think of every production I've ever been on, even on TV and big commercials, and you always run into the same problems. It's just the nature of production."

It will be interesting to see how he reconciles his sense of humour with the established big-screen juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

"It's the same as all my other films. It comes down to how much leeway do I give myself?" he says.

"I have to rein myself in on my films. Sometimes my ideas aren't right for the story we're trying to tell. With Wilderpeople I had to get rid of certain jokes because it was too distracting; other times I managed to fit them in. It's all about the balance when you're editing and getting as much of yourself in there as possible."

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