Five months after a crash in which he and his best mate were seriously injured, James Rolleston still struggles to do simple things.

"It just changed, just like that," the Boy star told the Herald.

"I took so much for granted, like brushing my teeth and talking, which have all been affected now. I struggle to cut my food and brush my teeth.

"My career was right there in both my hands, right in front of me, and it's changed instantly. It's just opened my eyes up to how precious my life was and how I am so thankful for all the little things I have in life and what I can do."


Rolleston spoke to the Herald as part of our campaign, Driven to Change, which has this week looked at the country's massive road toll over the last five Christmas and New Year periods.

In July, Rolleston was driving with promising league player Kaleb Maxwell in the car near their hometown of Opotiki.

A month later, the 19-year-old woke up in hospital with a compound fracture in his leg and a brain injury.

"All I remember was being excited about going home to Opotiki to see my boys and see my grandmother and four weeks later I woke up in hospital so, yeah, it's been tough since then, since August."

He has had to re-learn how to walk, talk and basic motor skills such as brushing his teeth.

His speech and memory are visibly affected by his brain injury and he has not been given a definitive recovery time.

"The doctors haven't given me a timeframe until I will be back to normal," Rolleston said.

"I had a compound fracture on my left shin where the bone came through the skin and now I have a skin graft so that will take a year or two to go down, or I can get plastic surgery on it if I want to.


"My speech is improving, my memory is improving. It's all improving. I haven't been given the timeframe, but it's all improving by the day.

"This whole experience has been a massive learning curve for me.

Interactive: Worst Xmas road crash sites

"I just thought I was an invincible young lad who wouldn't get a scratch on him, like nothing like this would ever happen to me - and I learnt that I am not."

Rolleston will now take up to a year out from his acting career to recover - but feels lucky to be here at all.

"I feel blessed. I've got angels watching over me for sure. I am so lucky and grateful to be back up on my feet.

"Just sitting here and speaking with you now I feel I have been given a second chance and I am going to take this opportunity with both hands."

James Rolleston starred in the Taika Waititi-directed Boy. Photo / File
James Rolleston starred in the Taika Waititi-directed Boy. Photo / File

Rolleston, who has had a successful film career since starring in Taika Waititi's Boy, said his whole future was nearly lost in the accident.

"Acting is still my dream and will always be my dream. I still hope to excel in my acting career and hope to make more New Zealand films.

"I am very lucky to be back here."

He hopes sharing his story will show other Kiwis the effects road accidents can have.

"I just want to say just drive cautiously and safer on the roads over the summer. I thought I was a young invincible teenage lad [and I] never thought anything like this would happen to me.

"I learnt the hard way that I am not invincible, and these things can happen to anybody and I hope that people out there realise that as well. These things do happen to people.


"This is a real event that can happen to you any day."

Rolleston has been charged with dangerous driving causing injury and is due to appear in Opotiki District Court in February.

The series

The Herald launches our Driven To Change campaign, to get Kiwis to take responsibility for our shocking road toll

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:


The case for a lower road toll: Experts pitch ideas they think would save lives