Julian Dennison is living his best skux life

Written by Joseph Earp on 24th May, 2018
Julian Dennison is living his best skux life

Fans of the Deadpool series, rest assured; the film’s expletive riddled sequel doesn’t let its R-rating go to waste. As obscene and over the top as the original might have been, Deadpool 2 only ups the stakes. It’s jam-packed with more violence, action, and sass than ever before.

But that’s not all: Deadpool 2 so happens to offer 100 per cent more New Zealand accent thanks to the very welcome addition of Julian Dennison as Russell, AKA Firefist, a disillusioned and difficult young boy who can shoot fire from his hands. Dennison, a short, smiley dark haired 15-year-old, says he enjoyed being able to bring a twist to Russell, who in the Marvel comics is a “blonde kind of jock”.

In Dennison’s knotted, burning hands, the character becomes something new entirely – a kind of anarchic punk, not too far from his portrayal of Ricky Baker in the Taika Waititi-helmed cult classic, Hunt For The Wilderpeople.

Dennison brings his wicked sense of humour and unexpected Kiwi accent, which he explains was much less of a creative decision than it was a decision born out of his inability to do a consistent and believable American accent. “It was a real quick conversation [with Ryan Reynolds],” Dennison explains with a grin. “I remember going like, ‘Will I keep my accent, or will I have to learn American?’ Because I’m terrible at American.”

Now, sitting in a hotel room in Sydney, Dennison is asked to recreate his aborted U.S. twang. But, grinning and crossing his arms, he shoots back a quick reply. “Nope,” he says. “I’m not even going to try.”

I don’t want to be cocky, but I think I’m pretty good at the emotional scenes.

That said, despite the perceived quality (or not) of his American accent, Dennison is an incredibly skilled actor. His still nascent career began with New Zealand feature Shopping in 2013, which saw him win Best Supporting Actor at the New Zealand Film Awards. From there, he was then cast in the hit flick Hunt For the Wilderpeople, a film that saw him team-up with now good mate Sam Neill, and that premiered at Sundance to great reception.

Reynolds, Deadpool himself, has said that they didn’t even consider other actors for the role. Dennison was in mind for the character as soon as Reynolds saw Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Later, on a trip to L.A., Dennison met with Reynolds to chat about Deadpool 2. The conversation that turned into a screen-test: a cold read with a camera in the corner.

After returning to New Zealand a few weeks later, Dennison got a call from Fox saying they’d like him for the part of Russell. Dennison clarifies. “They called my agent, not me – I’d be like,” he mimes being confused and overwhelmed, and laughs.

Describing director David Leitch as a “physical director” citing his background as a stuntman (for Brad Pitt, no less), Dennison says the action scenes were his favourite to shoot. “I don’t want to be cocky, but I think I’m pretty good at the emotional scenes. They’re draining more, they take a lot more out of you…but man, it was so fun doing all the stunts.”

Deadpool 2 is just so out there. You’d never see this stuff it in a normal movie, or an Avengers movie… It’s out by itself and it’s its own thing

Dennison’s casual attitude towards his success and friendliness makes it easy to forget he is just 15, until he mentions that while he’s seen snippets of it, he still hasn’t been allowed to watch the original Deadpool. He says he’ll watch it in when he’s home in October and turns 16 (Deadpool has an R-16 rating in NZ). Nonetheless, he feels like he understands why the first was so successful. “It’s just so out there. You’d never see this stuff it in a normal movie, or an Avengers movie… It’s out by itself and it’s its own thing.”

Shot in Vancouver over five months (Dennison comments that he got a good tan), Deadpool 2 boasts an all star cast with Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz. Bill Skarsgård and Terry Crews rounding out the bill. Being on set with heavyweights like Reynolds and Brolin, Dennison said he was initially intimidated, but that being able to work with influential, seasoned actors was a great way to learn about the industry.

Julian Dennison as Firefist in Deadppol 2

Nodding vigorously, he says he wants to remain in the film industry, and spurns the idea that he might one day get an office job. Aside from developing himself as an actor, he ‘s interested in getting behind the camera, potentially to produce or direct. He’s already joking that Deadpool 2 might be his peak, and that it could all be downhill from here. But with Dennison’s immense talent and quick climb from local films to blockbusters in one of the biggest franchises of recent times, it’s hard to believe his career will be ending anytime soon.

Dennison says he’d love his superpower to be teleportation, like Nightcrawler from the Marvel Universe, although he doesn’t want to be blue or have a tail. And when probed about a Deadpool 3, Dennison says he’d be keen, and hopes they don’t kill off his character.

“I would love to act more. I don’t know how to say it, but I want to be Russell more, because it was a really cool character and I reckon there’s so much more that people could learn from him.” With the internet already in overdrive before the premiere of the film, it’s easy to predict huge success for Dennison – and hopefully a comeback from Russell in Deadpool 3.

Deadpool 2 is in cinemas now.

The article was originally published on Brag Magazine