Congratulations, you’ve just had the world premiere of Uproar here in Toronto. How did it go?
Hamish Bennett: It was a lovely experience, Leo. It was really cool. I think as much as we’re telling a story which is unique and specific to Aotearoa [New Zealand] and to our lead character, Josh, it’s [also] a pretty universal story. It was really lovely and really reassuring to see audiences here connect with [the film] in the way that we’d hoped.
Where did the story of Uproar come from?
Paul Middleditch: The genesis of the story was based on my childhood growing up in Wellington during the Springbok Tour, as a kid in St. Patrick’s high school. It was very much about being a misfit and not fitting into the school culture, and in particular to the rugby culture because I was on the outside, in more of a creative world. So that was the inspiration of it in terms of the journey for Josh, the character, to actually kind of define himself and be okay with not being okay, not the normal thing.
More than that too, [it] was really a story about the country, it was a coming-of-age story for [New Zealand] as well as for Josh. Sonia Whiteman was working on that screenplay for a number of years, and then Julian Dennison, who was going to be cast in another role in the picture, wanted to play the lead, he wanted to play Josh. We went, “Okay, he’s a part-Māori boy. And therefore, this makes the issues in the film about racism and making a stand way more complex and challenging, but way better.”
And then we went, “Let’s see what we can do,” and we found Hamish. I’ve seen Bellbird, a beautiful film. This is exciting. I think he’s got the right feel for it exactly. And that’s where it started, and Hamish went from there.