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Hero image for Boy

Boy

Film (Trailer, Excerpts, and Extras) – 2010

M
Mature

Boy and Beyond

Editor's note: this backgrounder was written during New Zealand's Covid-19 lockdown.

Kia ora. I’ve been thinking lately, having plenty of time, about life. I’m in my bubble with a cousin in Auckland. I recently started watching The Last Dance. It’s been a great series to watch during lockdown. 

I’ve been living in Auckland since about 2016. Many years earlier I lived in Auckland with an uncle of mine. I went to St Mary’s Primary in Ellerslie, but then moved back to Opotiki when I was about six, where I finished primary school, and where I was discovered for Boy

I attended Opotiki College. I also attended Tauranga Boys' College in year 10 for a short time, before heading back to Opotiki College to finish my college years . I enjoyed metal work and PE. I found maths quite good too and wish I’d stayed with it because that was one of my stronger subjects, but I ended up dropping maths later in my high schooling.

I was sad to read the other day that Bruce Allpress had died. He was 89. I was in my second ever film with Bruce. He was Frosty, and I was the BMX Kid. Lovely man. He'd had a life of acting and I'd been in one film, Boy. That was 10 years ago.  I know because the Woman’s Day came and did a photo shoot of us ten years on.  

It seems like a long time ago since Tina Cleary, a Wellington-based casting director, came to my school. I remember thinking it was a great opportunity. Kids in Opotiki don’t often get exposed to opportunities like that, so it was intriguing to think we had a chance to be in a movie. I was a shy kid and didn’t say much at all. It wasn’t until I was given a few lines and a couple of directions that I began to warm up. I was lucky to be in the company of Rachel HouseTaika Waititi and Tina. They did a great job in making sure I was comfortable and not feeling too much pressure. 

I was offered the role of Tane, but later I was asked to play the lead role, Boy. I remember being very excited. I remember walking home from school and getting to my grandmother’s house where I was raised. I walked in to see my nan standing there with a huge smile on her face, and before I had slung my school bag off my shoulders and it hit the floor, she was telling me all about the phone call she'd just received.

There were times I found it hard to learn the script. There were difficult times but I managed. I was lucky to be around the other kids to rehearse with. We were so lucky to often have Rachel House taking the rehearsals with us kids. 

Taika was a funny man to be around. He is very creative and full of ideas. He was always keeping us kids in a good place so that we felt comfortable to perform. Also Cohen Holloway was an awesome person to have on set, always full of laughs and jokes. 

It was a strange feeling seeing myself for the first time on the big screen. I was over the moon and could not believe I was a part of this cool project, but there was still a bit of shyness and embarrassment because I wasn’t sure what others would be thinking.  Everyone back home in Opotiki treated me just the same as prior to the film. That was a good feeling. 

At the time I didn’t think about making a career out of this. I thought this was just a one-off, so I enjoyed the experience while it lasted. But then I landed the role in Frosty Man and The BMX Kid, then another short film in Australia called Man, then later I was picked up for the Vodafone commercials. From there I went to The Dark Horse, The Dead Lands, The Rehearsal, Pork Pie, and The Breaker Upperers

Of all the roles, my favourite would be Hongi in The Dead Lands. I enjoyed this role because of the physical challenges it brought. I thought Hongi's journey of seeking something that meant so much to him while faced with major obstacles and big learnings was amazing. 

The role I found most difficult was Mana in The Dark Horse [Rolleston played a teenager who is pressured to join a gang]. I hadn’t been tested like that before. I found it difficult sometimes to get to the right place. I would often find myself frustrated and beating myself up, because I wasn’t putting out the quality of work that I felt was needed. 

I have another film which is in post-production at the moment. I guess given the world as it is now, it might be a while before we see it: Paul Murphy’s Lowdown Dirty Criminals. I look forward to many more roles, and the challenges that each one brings. 

- James Rolleston acted in Boy at age 11. Five years later he was named Best Supporting Actor at the 2014 Moa Awards for The Dark Horse; he was also nominated in the Best Actor category for The Dead Lands.  

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