The Big Issue : Edition 512
32 THEBIGISSUE20MAY–2JUN2016 THERE’S NOTHING QUITE like coming home, and for his latest picture, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sam Neill has returned to his native New Zealand. It’s also the latest film from filmmaker Taika Waititi, who’s soon to become Hollywood-famous as the director of the third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok (starring fellow Antipodeans Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett). Hunt for the Wilderpeople is about a cantankerous and reluctant foster parent (Neill), who gets lost in the forest with his troubled yet cocksure ward (Julian Dennison). It’s characterised by what Neill calls “three dimensionality” – balancing hilarious repartee and unexpected film references (like Thelma & Louise!) with a very real sense of what it’s like to be an outcast on society’s fringes. This combination of light and dark is a fixture of Waititi’s work, a director who Neill describes as “a very, very funny and inventive guy but not without his own shadows”. In films including Boy (2010), vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and the Oscar- nominated short film Two Cars, One Night (2004), Waititi excels in comedies that are tinged with loss, grief and loneliness. They hit the heart as much as the funny bone. After premiering at Sundance Film Festival in January, Hunt for the Wilderpeople went on to break box office records back home. “I just got an email from my son,” says Neill. “All his mates have gone [to see the film] all over New Zealand. People have been going to cinemas and people laugh from beginning to end. And they clap at the end when the credits come up. You never get that. It’s a very pleasing and rewarding feeling to be in something that people really dig.” Neill sees parallels between this film and some of his earliest work, like Roger Donaldson’s groundbreaking 1977 political thriller Sleeping Dogs. “Taika very consciously makes a nod to those films. It has that anti- authoritarian streak that all those early films had. And it comes full circle in that I’m the one relic still there. I suppose that speaks to survival more than anything.” Survival is something Neill knows well. Despite starring in one of the most well-known films of all time, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) – “I always get people saying ‘the guy from Jurassic Park’, which is kind of irritating when you’ve done 100 other movies,” he grumbles – he is first and foremost a character actor; he takes each script as it comes. “Everyone thinks that actors plot their own way, but it’s a far more random process than that, unless you’re Wild PERFORMANCES BY SAM NEILL AND JULIAN DENNISON CARRY HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE. Times WITH MOVIES LIKE THE PIANO AND JURASSIC PARK UNDER HIS BELT, SAM NEILL’S LATEST FILM IS IN GOOD COMPANY.