He’s written and directed for The Flight of the Conchords, as well as offbeat comedy Eagle vs Shark, but now his new film, Boy, in which he also stars, has become the most successful New Zealand-made movie of all time. We met Taika and ‘Boy’ James Rolleston in Sydney.

Hi guys. So, what’s Boy about? TAIKA: Long pause. Ha, I was going to just do the synopsis of Star Wars, but no. It’s about this kid who’s growing up in the 80s around the time that Thriller came out. He doesn’t really know his dad at all; he just makes up fantasies about who he might be. His dad returns home after being away for six or seven years in jail. The dad basically makes up the same fantasises about himself… so there’s no real truth or reality about who this guy is. Slowly in the boy’s mind he begins to fantasize that his dad is actually Michael Jackson.

You’ve said its not entirely autobiographical, but obviously the setting and locations are… TAIKA: It’s shot in my home town, its like anything really, I could do all my films from now on in my hometown and it could be somehow autobiographical in that sense. I like using the locals and my family and involving them. It became quite a personal thing, we shot it in my grandmother’s house, we took it back to the exact way it was in the 80s, the same colour scheme and everything.

It’s become a big hit on the festival circuit, but were you nervous how it would be received at home? TAIKA: I knew people would really like it… I didn’t know so many people would like it. I knew there would be a decent audience for it, a niche crowd, same with my last film. I wasn’t really sure how mainstream it would become, or how many people would see it, shit loads of people have seen it now! It’s quite amazing. It’s the number one grossing New Zealand film of all time. That’s quite amazing actually, people don’t go see New Zealand films that much.

So, were most of the cast untrained actors? TAIKA: No one in the film had acted before accept my two gang mates, the auntie and the school principal. The rest of the cast are non-actors.

They must’ve loved seeing the final product? TAIKA: Yeah we had a big premiere screening down there. This is a place that is quite remote. It’s called Waihau Bay, about a six-hour drive from Auckland. There’s no cell phone coverage, no computers, it’s a really simple, small town. We had a giant outdoor screening. It was fantastic. The whole community turned up to watch. It was probably the best screening for me, watching everyone seeing themselves and the area on screen.

James, You were pushed into the lead role just days before filming began. Had you acted before? JAMES: No, first ever time.

What made you go for the role? JAMES: My family encouraged me. I just wanted to give it a go.

How did it feel when you found out you’d been picked? JAMES: Ah, far out, over the moon. Yeah, just like, “I can’t believe I’m getting the lead role for a feature film”.

How’s your life changed since? JAMES: It’s been busy as! People shouting out “Boy!” in the streets. But all my mates treat me how they use to, regular. Other people I don’t quite know want photos of me.

Was Michael Jackson a big part of your youth Taika? TAIKA: Yeah totally. I remember watching Beat It religiously whenever it was on TV. Knowing all the moves. Going through the house pretending it was the milk bar that he goes to.

How’s your moonwalk? TAIKA: Pretty good. The amazing thing is these kids were all into him. This is two years before he died. He’s made even more of a resurgence now.

A lot of people probably connect with your character, the fumbling dad trying to be cool. Did you see that in your father? TAIKA: No, mainly adults in general. Now being an adult I’ve realised that’s pretty much what we do, especially men. Constantly trying to be cool or liked. Humans in general are just inherently uncool. It’s all about wanting to find your place in the world. Wanting to be loved. That’s the dad, he desperately wants to be loved and do anything, tread on anyone, to keep those myths going, much to his detriment.