Julian Dennison's journey from Naenae to Hunt for the Wilderpeople video

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff.co.nz

Hunt for the Wilderpeople actors Julian Dennison and Sam Neill talk shop with director Taika Waititi at the Roxy theatre, Miramar, Wellington.

Julian Dennison is a simple, normal kid from Naenae in Lower Hutt – he does the dishes, enjoys going to school, and hanging out with his mates. 

Two of those mates just happen to be Sam Neill and Taika Waititi.

The three stars of Hunt for the Wilderpeople were at the Roxy Cinema on Sunday for a meet and greet with fans, and the trio's bond was obvious from the outset.

The week spent filming the car chase was one of the highlights for Julian Dennison who said that it cemented his ...
SUPPLIED

The week spent filming the car chase was one of the highlights for Julian Dennison who said that it cemented his friendship with Sam Neill.

Dennison, 13, is in year 9 at Hutt International Boys' School and said he was enjoying his time there, and even the school uniform.

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That statement that was met with laughs from Waititi, who went to Onslow College because of the mufti and the girls, he said.

From left, Sam Neill, Julian Dennison and Taika Waititi from Hunt for the Wilderpeople are friends outside of the movie ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

From left, Sam Neill, Julian Dennison and Taika Waititi from Hunt for the Wilderpeople are friends outside of the movie world.

But that was the last thing Dennison wanted. 

"That would be difficult. It takes about 40 minutes to choose an outfit because you'd want to impress the girls and want to look good," Dennison said.

"Whereas you can just chuck on a uniform and you don't look homeless if you wear the same thing three days in a row."

Meet and greet with Hunt for the Wilderpeople cast at Roxy theatre in Miramar, Wellington
MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

Meet and greet with Hunt for the Wilderpeople cast at Roxy theatre in Miramar, Wellington

"But your uniform stinks," Waititi said.

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"That's why they have washing machines," Dennison quickly replied.

The Naenae boy burst into the acting world in 2013 with feature film Shopping and the Waititi-directed anti drug-driving advert Blazed.

He went to the open auditions for Shopping at his primary school and it came down to him or his twin Christian.

But he wasn't sure he wanted to do it, his mother Mabelle​ said.

"I sat him down and said what would be involved and asked if he thought he could do it, because once he said yes, he would be obliged to see it through," she said.

The youngest of her four children, he couldn't be more different than the character of Ricky.

Julian was her quiet one who found it tough being away from family and was a bit shy, but he had learned to overcome that and had blossomed, she said.

Waititi said following the advert he always knew he wanted to do more projects with Dennison – and not just because "all the others were busy", as Dennison puts it.

"I thought he was so great and so natural and funny," Waititi said.

Sam Neill first met Dennison on day one of production of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but had long been a fan.

"I knew he had the chops, he could act, he could be funny, but I didn't know what he would be like. He could have been unbearable, but it turns out ... he was great."

BEATING BOY

During his introduction to the meet-and-greet film screening at the Roxy, Waititi said that Hunt for the Wilderpeople had, unofficially, beaten the opening weekend box office records set by his other popular film Boy.

Boy made almost $900,000 in its first week and went on to earn more than $9 million, making it the highest grossing New Zealand film by passing The World's Fastest Indian.

"Unofficially, we will beat Boy, which is bittersweet for me," Waititi said.

"I'm really happy and also bitterly disappointed at the same time."

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