This week sees the release of The Stolen, a Western directed by Niall Johnson (Keeping Mum) set in 1860 New Zealand following a mother (Alice Eve, Star Trek Into Darkness) hunting the man who killed her husband and kidnapped her baby.
The film includes actors who are no strangers to NZ-powered productions like Graham McTavish (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) and Cohen Holloway (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). However, the most notable Kiwi cast member is Stan Walker in a role that’s far apart from anything he’s played in his previous three features.
“He’s Māori, quiet but staunch, and he’s a protector,” is how Walker describes his character Matai. “I kind of had full reign over how I wanted him to be portrayed with the guidance of Jared who was the Māori culture advisor.”
“I had to learn how to kill as an old school Māori warrior. It took a while to get the movements right using the weaponry. It helped a lot that I had awesome stuntmen on set to show me all of that so I could get it right myself.”
Walker brought his own changes to the character “especially when it came to the cultural side of things and what was appropriate and also the correct representation of Māori. I’m not fluent in Māori, but I do know that back in those days Te Reo was different. It was Tūturu and old.”
It probably comes as no surprise that Walker fitted in swimmingly with the international crew. He is, after all, one of the most easy-going people on planet earth. As was Johnson, according to Walker: “He was a great director to be around. Always calm and collected even in the toughest situations.”
He shared the same sentiment for his fellow actors. “Was so awesome to see them in their zone as much as it was to see them off camera as I had seen many of them in some big films. We were all pretty close and got on well which was awesome.”
I asked if he had recommended any particular Kiwi experiences to the international cast and crew. “Yup but more so kiwi food that they don’t have in their countries. Pies, mainly.”
Walker also remade his hit song Find You, an eerily perfect match to the film’s story. “I can’t remember what inspired me to write it. It just basically fits the synopsis of the film. The Māori part in it is just the translation – To me though, the Māori part is the best.”