Ngāti Haua descendant and up-and-coming star Julian Dennison has been named Te Whetu Maiangi, the Young Achiever at the Matariki 2017 Awards.
At only 15-years-old, Dennsion has made his mark in the world of film at an international level after starring in Taika Waititi’s runaway hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople alongside Sam Neil.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople has become New Zealand’s most successful film ever, breaking national box office records and becoming the highest grossing Kiwi film in history.
His performance was so notable that he was named on the Hollywood Reporter’s list as one of the International Breakout Talents in 2016.
Dennison was cast in his first feature film, Shopping, in 2013 when he was just 11, and was awarded the New Zealand Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The open auditions for Shopping were held at his primary school and it came down to him or his twin brother Christian.
But Julian wasn’t sure he wanted to do it his mother Mabelle says.
“Julian was a quiet and shy child – he found it tough being away from his family. But he’s learned to overcome that and he’s blossomed.”
Making the film Shopping proved to be the right move for Julian.
In 2015 he was cast in the Australian film Paper Planes and his performance in this project is what caught Taika Waititi’s eye.
Taika first directed the youngster in an anti-drug driving advert, Blazed. That was only to be the beginning of their working relationship – the best was yet to come.
Taika then cast Julian – without an audition – in the lead role in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I am keen, I’d really enjoy it’,” says Julian. “I never knew it would be this big.”
Since his role on Hunt for the Wilderpeople, projects have continued to pile up for the young talent.
His latest project will see him feature alongside blockbuster movie star Ryan Reynolds in the next installment of his blockbuster hit Deadpool.
Ryan Reynolds announced the addition of Dennison to the cast on his Instagram account.
Due to his hectic work schedule Julian Dennison was unable to attend the ceremony tonight - but his twin brother Christian Dennison was there to accept the award on his behalf.
Although he is a rising star Julian Dennison remains down to earth and Native Affairs caught up with him last year to talk about his success.