Taika Waititi Explains Our Sense of Humour
New Zealander Taika Waititi is now one of Hollywood’s hardest working filmmakers with a slew of projects in development, writes Joe Utichi, who interviews the director for entertainment news site, Deadline. Wherever he goes next, Waititi is certain to raise eyebrows, ruffle feathers and keep us laughing for many years to come.
Utichi asks the LA-based filmmaker if when he set out, did he ever think that the kind of humour that is his stock in trade could one day lead to Hollywood blockbusters.
“What I and my friends were doing when we first started out just felt different for New Zealand, I think,” Waititi, 43, explains. “New Zealand cinema was always considered kind of dark, and we did more dramas than anything. It wasn’t like we’re known for this mix of drama and comedy – tonally what I ended up doing in my films. That wasn’t really usual. But once we started doing things like that, I think we just realised that there was an audience for it.
“That tone didn’t feel out of the question in New Zealand, it was just that I don’t think we’d had much of an opportunity to do it, so when we did do it, everyone felt like, ‘Oh, this is exactly how we are, and this is our sense of humour, and this is not an unusual way to look at ourselves; nothing weird.’
“But then, we didn’t make a lot of movies in New Zealand before. Not many people had been given the opportunity to go down that road with a feature film. In the past, we probably only would have made six films a year, on average, so when you’re using taxpayers money and you’re trying to make the best films as possible, for the New Zealand Film Commission in the past, it’s just been less risky to stay with what we were known for, and not disrupt that habit.
“Coming from New Zealand, we shy away from sentimentality, and anything that feels cheesy or over-earnest. So with any of the emotional stuff in my movies, it was about trying to do it in a very non-cheesy way. If you look at Boy, it’s a very un-American coming-of-age film. It’s more like a comedy about child neglect. Eagle vs. Shark, too, is a very un-American romantic comedy; it’s neither a romance nor very funny.
“So it’s about trying to do things that feel unique and authentic, even though a lot of these films feel a bit over the top. The situations seem more quirky – which is a word I hate – and more fantastical in a lot of ways. It still feels authentic to me, because it’s based around how I see the world.”
Original article by Joe Utichi, Deadline, May 15, 2019.