Cast in the main role just three days before filming began, newbie actor James Rolleston proved a screen natural as star of box office sensation Boy. Aged only 11 at the time, the Ōpōtiki teen was nominated for a Qantas best actor award for his work in Taika Waititi's second feature. 2014 saw two more starring roles:  as the son of a Māori chieftain in the Toa Fraser-directed Dead Lands, and an award-winning turn as a troubled teen in acclaimed chess and gangs drama The Dark Horse. Rolleston went on to co-star in a remake of car chase classic Goodbye Pork Pie, and an adaptation of Eleanor Catton novel The Rehearsal

He just launched himself into it, he was so enthusiastic about it. Boy director Taika Waititi on James Rolleston, in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 2010

Lowdown Dirty Criminals

2019, As: Freddy - Film

Golden Boy (Comedy Pilot Week)

2018, As: Tama - Television

The Breaker Upperers

2018, As: Jordan - Film

Packed with Kiwi comedy talent, The Breaker Upperers is the tale of two women whose business is ending other people's relationships. Leading both the cast and the filmmakers are Madeleine Sami (Super City) and Jackie van Beek (who played a wannabe vampire in What We Do in the Shadows). Sami's character finds herself falling for a teen (James Rolleston) who needs to dump his girlfriend. The film won its first rave review when it debuted at US festival South by Southwest, in March 2018. New Zealand release followed in May. The cast includes Rima Te Wiata and Rose Matafeo.

Pork Pie

2017, As: Luke Anaphora - Film

Pork Pie is a rare local remake — the source material is the 1981 movie which first got Kiwis lined up in blockbuster numbers, to see themselves on screen. This time round, the mini-driving rebels are played by James Rolleston (Boy), Dean O'Gorman (who also hit the road in Snakeskin) and Australian Ashleigh Cummings (TV's Puberty Blues). Writer/ director Matt Murphy is the son of Kiwi film legend Geoff Murphy, who directed the original Goodbye Pork Pie. The "reimagining" became the fourth highest grossing film in local release, during its first five days in New Zealand cinemas.

The Rehearsal

2016, As: Stanley - Film

Director Alison Maclean (Kitchen Sink, Jesus' Son) returned to New Zealand for this adaptation of Eleanor Catton's acclaimed debut novel. The psychological drama stars James Rolleston (The Dead Lands) as one of a group of acting students who use a real-life sex scandal involving a tennis coach, as creative fuel for their end of year show. The cast mixes experienced names (Kerry Fox and Miranda Harcourt as drama teachers) with emerging talents (Ella Edward). Connan Mockasin supplies the soundtrack. The Rehearsal debuted at the 2016 NZ International Film Festival.

2016 Matariki Awards

2016, Presenter - Television

The first Matariki awards recognise Māori achievers across everything from sport, to academia, to business. The audience pay special tribute to Scotty Morrison, the IronMāori team, and All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder. Nominated for the Waipuna-ā-Rangi Award for excellence in art and entertainment are Stan Walker, Cliff Curtis and artist Lisa Reihana; one of the trio will later score the night's supreme award. Musical guests Ria Hall and The Modern Māori Quartet combine to enliven 'Ten Guitars'. The awards were presented on behalf of Te Puni Kōkiri and Māori Television. 

The Dark Horse

2014, As: Mana - Film

The Dark Horse is the story of a Māori ex-speed chess champ who must “overcome prejudice and violence in the battle to save his struggling chess club, his family and ultimately, himself”. Genesis Potini has a bi-polar disorder; his nephew Mana (Boy’s James Rolleston) faces being pressed into a gang. A near unrecognisable Cliff Curtis won international acclaim as Potini. James Napier Robertson's acclaimed second feature was picked to opened the 2014 Auckland and Wellington Film Festival, and scored six Moa awards, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor.

Man

2014, As: Eli - Short Film

The Dead Lands

2014, As: Hongi - Film

Action movie The Dead Lands joins the short list of screen tales set in Aotearoa, before the pākehā. James Rolleston (star of Boy) plays Hongi, the son of a Māori chief. After the massacre of his tribe, Hongi sets out into the forbidden Dead Lands, hoping to enlist the help of a legendary warrior (Lawrence Makoare). The Anglo-Kiwi co-production marked new screen territory for director Toa Fraser (No. 2) and writer Glenn Standring (fantasy Perfect Creature). After debuting at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, The Dead Lands topped the Kiwi box office and won three Moa awards.

Vodafone

2012 - 2014, Actor - Television

Boy

2010, As: Boy - Film

Taika Waititi's blockbuster second movie revolves around an imaginative 11-year-old East Coast boy (James Rolleston) trying to make sense of his world — and the return of his just-out-of-jail father (Waititi). Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Boy mixes poignancy with trademark whimsy and visual inventiveness. The film was shot in the Bay of Plenty area where Waititi partly grew up. A winner in its section at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Boy soon became the most successful local release on its home soil (at least until the arrival of Waititi's 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

Frosty Man and the BMX Kid

2010, As: BMX Kid - Short Film

In this short James Rolleston (Boy) stars as a Kiwi lad who banters with an elderly bearded fulla (Bruce Allpress) who claims to be God; the 'BMX Kid' challenges him to a Lake Wakatipu bomb competition to prove it. Kiwi stuntman/director Tim McLachlan's film was a finalist in Your Big Break, a filmmaking contest run by Tourism New Zealand which attracted over 1000 scripts from around the globe. Five finalists were given the chance to turn their scripts into a short film. The brief was to "capture the spirit of 100% Pure New Zealand — the youngest country on earth".