Julian Dennison made his screen debut in 2013 feature Shopping, as the younger brother of a troubled teen. His performance netted him the New Zealand Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was only 11 at the time. After landing a role in Australian movie Paper Planes, Dennison co-starred opposite Kiwi acting legend Sam Neill in Kiwi box office champ Hunt for the Wilderpeople, as a 'troubled' child sent to stay in the backblocks. Dennison scored another local acting award. He'd first worked with director Taika Waititi in 2013, on a drug driving commercial. He also appears in movies Chronesthesia and Deadpool 2.
...finally, what makes Wilderpeople memorable is how attached audiences become to the characters, and as played by Dennison and [Sam] Neill, they are two fully realised, full of flaws but nonetheless oh-so loveable human beings. Boyd van Hoeij, in a Hollywood Reporter review of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 23 January 2016
Taika Waititi's fourth feature is the tale of a city kid and a grumpy uncle on the run. Raised on hip hop and state care, Ricky (Shopping's Julian Dennison) goes bush with his foster uncle (Sam Neill), with the authorities on his tail. Wilderpeople is based on Barry Crump book Wild Pork and Watercress. Keen to recapture the style of classic screen yarns like Came a Hot Friday, Waititi's aim was a funny, accessible adventure. The result began winning acclaim when it debuted at North America's Sundance Film Festival, before becoming Aotearoa's biggest ever local hit.
Writer/director Hayden J Weal uses chronesthesia (aka mental time travel — the ability to think into the past and future) as a catalyst for romantic comedy in this low-budget feature. Weal stars as a young Wellington barista whose routine is disrupted by mysterious messages, dreams and strangers, plus a flurry of odd coincidences. The cast includes Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison and Cohen Holloway, plus Michelle Ny (Reservoir Hill). Titled Love and Time Travel outside of Aotearoa, the movie debuted in the Wellington edition of the 2016 NZ Film Festival.
Two cars, one day: directed by Taika Waititi, this extended public service announcement uses humour to address the dangers of motoring under the influence of marijuana. A trio of tamariki imitate their Dads’ stoned antics, driving home what’s at stake when getting behind the wheel while ‘blazed’. Young Julian Dennison was fresh from his acting debut in Shopping. Waititi later cast him to co-star with Sam Neill in his 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The advertisement was part of a Clemenger BBDO traffic safety campaign made for the NZ Transport Agency.
Shopping marks the feature debut of Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland, who were acclaimed for their short films. Set on the Kapiti Coast, the 80s-set drama follows half-Samoan teenager Willie (Kevin Paulo), who is seduced into a world of petty crime. Adrift in muscle cars and boozy lawn parties, he finds stirrings of love, and escape from his volatile Pākehā father. Little brother Solomon (Julian Dennison) must fend for himself. Selected for the Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals, Shopping went on a winning spree at the 2013 NZ Film Awards (including Best Film and Screenplay).