A star of the Hobbit trilogy spent his days away from the biggest New Zealand film to work on one of the smallest.

Between working as dwarf Dwalin on the $700 million trilogy, Scottish star Graham McTavish joined actors including Michelle Langstone and Nathan Meister in Realiti, a sci-fi flick shot on a budget in Wellington.

Speaking from Britain after a day working on TV series Outlander, McTavish said he was delighted Realiti was ready to hit the big screen. McTavish plays courageous Highland warrior chief Dougal MacKenzie in Outlander.

But in Realiti, his character, Mandrake, is not so noble.


McTavish called Mandrake a villainous but complex character operating in "grey areas" of the law.

"He believes he's doing it all for the right reasons, and that's why people like Mandrake are so dangerous."

The Scot starred in action series 24, in the first Rambo film, and in sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf.

McTavish said the intimacy and immediacy of Realiti was fascinating, and he admired director Jonathan King's ability to improvise. "He did it very cheaply, and very well. It's inspired me a little to explore doing something like that myself."

King said post-production finished a fortnight ago. He and friend Chad Taylor spent a few years developing the project. They didn't secure Film Commission funding but that didn't stop them.

The film-makers persuaded actors to get involved, and the shoot was tailored to their availability.

The result was a film unlike any most viewers would have seen before, King said.

"There are things about the film that are unconventional, because of the kind of film we wanted it to be. By making it independently, I guess we had the freedom to do that."

Realiti will have its premiere on July 31 at Wellington's Paramount Theatre.

The film also screens at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland on August 1 and 2.

McTavish and New Zealand-born wife Gwen have decided to settle here.

"It was such a wonderful job from that point of view. It gave us a life opportunity that we seized with both hands."

McTavish returns to New Zealand in November.