WHILE New Zealand box office hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople has left audiences and critics doubled over with laughter, star Sam Neill doesn’t view it as a comedy.
Although not completely off-point, the film, about orphan Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) who is dropped off at a rural property in the care of couple Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector Faulkner (Sam Neill) but is soon on the run from the law in farcical fashion, does have sombre moments.
Neill plays the grumpy “straight” role to the amusingly cheeky and gangster-obsessed teenager Ricky.
“I never saw it as a comedy; I saw it as a drama that’s very funny,” Neill said.
“(It’s) important that (my character) keeps the film grounded; he is not a straight up and down member of the community.
“They have cast the funniest people in New Zealand; if everyone does funny then it just flies away.
“It is about abandonment, and loss; children marginalised.
“I think it has more resonance because it has very serious undertones.”
With an already impressive body of work under his belt, Neill in 1993 (the year blockbuster Jurassic Park was released) branched out and added winemaker to his resume, opening Two Paddocks.
“I do taste wines from other regions to an extent, but there is only so much a liver can take,” he said.
Despite 23 years in the winemaking business, WA wine regions have eluded him.
“I have not been to the Swan Valley; I have been invited to the wine festival in Margaret River a couple of times but have not had the time to get there, but I do love the wines from there,” he said.
“They are completely different to what we produce in New Zealand, so we are no way in competition.”
With more than 40 years of film and television appearances on his filmography, a career he calls “diverse”, one would think Neill had done it all, but not just yet.
“I have never done a western before and at this late stage I get to be a proper cowboy,” he said.
“I am doing horse training in Australia for a series called The Son.
“Australia is the first place I worked away from home, so I am attached to Australia.”
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in cinemas May 26.