Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress written by Barry Crump, the awarding-winning New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi was given the Crump family blessing to tell the story on screen under the title Hunt for the Wilderpeople. A relatable adventure tale that isn't so nice and tidy. Waititi describes it as a story about the outsider, a rebel, who lives on the fringes. Adding comic relief around every bend of the journey, humor endears the soul.
Waititi, a fan of the Crump family storytelling was hired by executive producer Charlie McClellan, in 2005, to adapt the Barry Crump classic Wild Pork and Watercress, into a feature film script. After completion it sat on the shelf until 2013, when Waititi re-entered negotiations to secure the rights for a film project with the Crump family.
Waititi recalls what impressed him about Crump's main characters. He says, "I love the way this story takes two outsiders from different backgrounds, an odd couple of two loners, forced to work together in a quest to stand independent and free of society's unfair regulations." He adds, "Whether they are justified in their mission isn't important--the mere fact they are trying to fight for something is why the story stayed with me."
Producer Carthew Neal says, "Barry Crump and Waititi share a sense of humor and love of the renegade." He adds, "Waititi's seamless play between smart wit and pathos makes for a soulful comedy. And a reminder family can be found anywhere."
Ten-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a product of the foster-care system, is on his last golden ticket from the state to find him the ideal family. The obnoxious city kid is taken to the farm of an elderly couple in the back country of New Zealand to get his fresh new start. Initially Ricky is angry that he will be out of touch with everything he knows best. Ricky soon begins to settle into his new environment with a certain degree of relief. For once in his life Ricky feels safe. And, loved by the gracious couple, Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) and dog Tupac, who are giving him a new lease on his young and troubled life.
Tragedy comes upon the newly formed family that threatens to remove Ricky from his adopted loved ones. Uncle Hec and Ricky conveniently disappear before the child protective authorities arrive to take Ricky back to the city.
The two are deemed fugitives of the state and a serious manhunt is underway. What began as an innocent child-like retreat to the hills for safety from unjust treatment turns into a highly organized search for the run-aways. Uncle Hec and Ricky must decide if they continue on the run keeping one-step ahead of the authorities or be respectable and turn themselves in. They first decide to have a little fun with the authorities and see how far their adventure will take them. If captured, they'll choose to suffer the consequences no matter how severe.