The Boy at Heart and Boy
Director/actor/writer Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark) and first-time actor, 11-year-old James Rolleston were in Sydney recently to promote their film Boy, which has been hailed the highest grossing Kiwi-made film in New Zealand. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend watching the trailer (below) before reading the highlights of my chat with the very talented duo.
Do you prefer working with kids or adults?
Block your ears for a second, James. Adults. I don’t really mind but it is harder working with kids. (To James) You can unblock your ears now. You have to go at their pace. If a kid has a meltdown and doesn’t want to work, you can’t force them. You’ve just got to stop and wait for them.
Do you like telling stories through a child’s eyes? Why?
They were memories I had as a kid. You know those formative years where you are just finding out who you are and the things that happen around that time, the people you meet – the older you get they hold more significance. The film is quite personal in that I shot it in my hometown in my grandmother’s house. But the stories were completely made up. Using those personal things was important to me just to make it authentic in my mind.
Did you see your father as Boy did in the film?
A little bit. I think everyone sees one or both of their parents in that fantasy. They start understanding that their parents aren’t who they think they are. They aren’t as incredible. That’s what part of this is about, changing of someone’s perception of their parent. They are people we think we understand but they are strangers as well. There are so many mysteries about them. There’s no way you can really tell what your parents’ secrets are or what their hopes and dreams were before you were born.
Explain what an egg means?
Egg? It’s a small, oval receptacle. (laughs) It’s just an insult from the 80s. We’d call each other egg or spoon. It’s just like calling someone a dork.
How did you feel when you were told you were nominated for an Oscar for your short film, Two Cars, One Night?
I was quite speechless…
Is that still a dream?
I’m not sure. I’m quite happy doing my thing. It would be really nice to get another nomination but if that was the reason for making films then I’ll be pretty clouded in my judgment.
You decided to write, direct and star in Boy. Did you not trust anyone else to do the job right?
In the end no, actually. I only cast myself about two months before the filming. I didn’t want to baby sit another actor on top of the kids as well.
Why are stories about New Zealand important to you to tell?
I guess because nobody else is telling them. Well the stories I want to tell, I don’t think anyone else is going to write or tell properly. Especially for us Maori. Traditionally, it is one of our strong points. We come from an aural culture and I hope it will encourage other Maoris to tell their stories and get better at it.
Was this your chance to show the Michael Jackson dance moves you’ve been practicing in your room?
Oh most definitely. I was a huge fan, still a huge fan.
Were you devastated?
Yes. We were just editing the film. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping it was one of those hoaxes.
Did you know about Michael Jackson before Boy?
Were you a fan?
I wasn’t as big of a fan as I am right now.
Do you have a favourite song?
Ooh… I like Man in the Mirror and Beat It.
What was it like working with this guy?
You were the hero in the film. What did you think of your performance?
I don’t really know because it was my first time acting. I don’t really know what a good actor looks like.
Are you a bit famous in New Zealand now?
Yea, big-ass. And I am shy-ass.
Just taking photos really. That’s the new autograph.
In cinemas 26 Aug