Taika Waititi Takes on a Decidedly Risky Role
After years of trying to get the film off the ground, New Zealander Taika Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarok, finally convinced Fox Searchlight to roll the dice on a comedy set in Nazi Germany (which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 8 September), but there was only one catch – he had to play der Führer himself, Mia Galuppo reports for The Hollywood Reporter.
The first stop for Jojo Rabbit was to secure initial financing from Germany’s Studio Babelsberg. With credits that included The Pianist and Tom Cruise starrer Valkyrie, the financier was experienced in making World War II-set properties (albeit ones with a far more dramatic tone than Jojo). The plan was to package the project with an A-list star attached to play Hitler, Galuppo writes.
“Most people really loved the script,” recalls the filmmaker of the feedback he was getting from potential stars – all of whom ultimately passed. “I think it was a little difficult for people to figure out if it was a good career move, and I can fucking totally understand. Who really wants to see themselves as Adolf Hitler on a poster?”
The filmmaker had acted in his own work before, including major roles in Boy and his 2014 vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, but, besides the obvious, he had reservations about playing the Führer. Even an imaginary one.
So, in the summer of 2018, Waititi found himself on an impossibly quaint river in Prague, wearing a red swastika on his arm, blue contact lenses and a disturbingly trimmed mustache, screaming over the water to his crew on the opposite riverbank about how he wanted a shot to be framed. “That was a sad moment for me, yelling at the crew dressed as Adolf Hitler in public,” he says with a rueful laugh. “I looked like Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator.”
Regardless of Jojo’s reception, Waititi is going to remain a very busy man. In addition to directing an episode of The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau’s anticipated Star Wars series that debuts on Disney+ in November, he’ll appear onscreen in Shawn Levy’s Free Guys opposite Ryan Reynolds (he is also reportedly in talks to join the cast of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad). Prior to helming the next Thor outing, he’s going to squeeze in one more directorial effort – working again with Fox Searchlight on Next Goal Wins, a drama about the American Samoa soccer team.
Original article by Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, September 6, 2019.
Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic.