Barry Crump's ex wants credit for book that sparked Hunt for the Wilderpeople

PIKI FILMS/YouTube

Taika Waititi's film Hunt for the Wilderpeople debuted at Sundance Film Festival.

Barry Crump's fourth wife says she wrote the outline of the bestselling book on which the film Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based, and she wants credit.

Robin Lee-Robinson was married to Crump for 12 years, during which time he wrote the novel Wild Pork and Watercress, his most critically acclaimed work.

She says the couple spent much of their time together in the bush and shared many experiences which were used in the book.

Robin Lee-Robinson claims to have created the characters that feature in the film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
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Robin Lee-Robinson claims to have created the characters that feature in the film Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

She also claims she was the basis of the character Ricky (played by Julian Dennison in the film), a young Maori boy who flees into the Ureweras with the character based on Crump, Uncle Hec (Sam Neill in the film).

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"I was very much a part of the process," Lee-Robinson says. "It wouldn't be the novel it is without me. I don't want to take anything away from him — it's his, well it's not his. It's not entirely his."

Robin Lee-Robinson with the outline she claims Crump's book is based on.
ROSS BROWN / VISION MEDIA

Robin Lee-Robinson with the outline she claims Crump's book is based on.

Lee-Robinson says she wrote an outline for the story, Crump read it, made notes, and then wrote his own version.

"He wasn't getting on with writing the book. We decided to kickstart it. We had a template with a male character between 40 and 65 and a junior character between 10 and 16. They go into the bush and have an adventure."

Lee-Robinson, herself a writer whose memoir In Salting the Gravy tells the story of her difficult relationship with Crump, says she has notes that prove her contribution to Wild Pork and Watercress at her Opotiki home.

Barry Crump was known to have had help with his work.
MARK ROUND/FAIRFAX NZ.

Barry Crump was known to have had help with his work.

"It was very, very systematically planned."

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Former radio host Martin Crump says his father borrowed from lots of people when writing his popular books.

"None of Barry's stories were exclusively Barry's. They were everyone's. He pinched bits off anyone. But no one could tell a story like he could. Robin is a very honest person, but did she write the book's outline? I don't know the answer to that. Unless you've got proof, sorry.

Robinson says the adventures of Ricky (Julian Dennison) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) were similar to ones she had with Crump.
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Robinson says the adventures of Ricky (Julian Dennison) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) were similar to ones she had with Crump.

"She was there, she certainly knows more about it than I do. She was with Barry for 12 years, she was the only one who could handle it. He was violent, he could be ruthless, but he could also be the greatest company you ever had."

Martin Crump said he contributed to Mrs Windyflax and the Pungapeople, published in 1995. Publishing industry sources said that Crump was known to have had help with his work. 

Lee-Robinson maintains that there were parts of her outline that "are very, very similar, and almost the same" as Wild Pork and Watercress.

Film maker Taika Waititi on the set of Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Film maker Taika Waititi on the set of Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

"There was kind of a deal with Barry, I wasn't going to speak … He wanted to write a deep and complex book that was going to stand up to criticism. Right from the outset he wanted this book to be the one that attracted a film contract, although he wanted Lee Tamahori to make it."

Another of Crump's wives, poet Fleur Adcock, recently went public with her memories of their violent marriage, in which he was physically and emotionally abusive.

Yvonne Thynne, head of publicity for Penguin Random House, which has published a new movie edition of the book, says it is selling briskly. "The new film tie-in edition has been hugely popular, so much so that we have had to reprint."

A spokesman for the Wilderpeople production team said they were not aware of Lee-Robinson's reported role in bringing the story to life.

Lee-Robinson attended the film premiere in Auckland this week but felt "dislocated" from the event. "Not to be mentioned at all ... All these millions of people will never know that I was involved."

Bush Media Limited, which holds the rights to the book, said in a statement that Wild Pork and Watercress was originally published in 1986 by Barry Crump & Associates and was credited to the late bushman and author.

Barry Crump's books have sold more than a million copies. 

 - Sunday Star Times

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