It’s been a spectacular half decade for director Taika Waititi. The New Zealand born filmmaker made a name for himself with 2014’s faux vampire documentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, wowed audiences with the underrated comedy HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, and single-handedly rebooted the God of Thunder with 2017’s THOR: RAGNAROK. Oh and he just also knocked it out of the park directing episode eight of Disney+’s The Mandalorian. Yup, everything seems to be coming up Milhouse for Taika.
Earlier this year, Waititi released arguably his most ambitious project to date with JOJO RABBIT. Billed as a WWII “satire about hate,” the film follows Johannes “Jojo” Beltzer, a Hitler Youth member who discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in his home. The discovery forces Jojo to confront all of his previously held beliefs all while dealing with his imaginary friend, a fanciful Adolf Hitler played by Waititi. While the subjects of Nazis, the Holocaust, and fascism are all heady topics, you don’t typically see them through the lens of comedy outside of Hogan’s Heroes and THE PRODUCERS. However, according to a recent interview with Waititi, JOJO RABBIT as a film was complicated from both an industry and personal level:
“The pitching of the film was always going to be awkward. You can’t start with ‘it’s a lighthearted look at the atrocities of World War II.’ The script spoke for itself when it was shopped around town in Hollywood. Most studios got it more when they read it. It’s a very lonely business, I’ve written everything by myself…it’s usually me pacing up and down hallways, having a lot of dialogue with myself, with my characters, staring at the computer screen and going to sleep.”
The script initially didn’t get any financial backers despite landing on the notable Black List in 2012. It wasn’t until Waititi directed his first three aforementioned movies that JOJO RABBIT was greenlit. Fox Searchlight eventually opted the film and were actually the ones to suggest Waititi himself play Hitler rather than a marquee actor. Thankfully, for both Fox Searchlight and Taika Waititi, the film has been a success both critically and commercially. JOJO RABBIT is currently crushing it on the awards circuit, being nominated for a Golden Globe for both Best Picture and Best Actor for Roman Griffin Davis.
JoBlo’s own Chris Bumbray was quite enamored with the picture when it debuted at TIFF earlier this year calling it, “a strong effort with some transcendently humane moments.” Critics tended to agree as the film currently holds a 79% Certified Fresh approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an even more impressive 95% audience score. Who knew Hitler and Nazis could be this funny? All kidding aside, Taika Waititi is a daring and provocative young director who is not opposed to taking risks. The cinema landscape is better off with him in it.
While Waititi eagerly awaits JOJO RABBIT’s Oscar chances, he by no means is resting on his velvety vampire cloak. He’s currently shooting NEXT GOAL WINS with Michael Fassbender and Elisabeth Moss due out next year. Waititi is also close to beginning pre-production on another tale for a certain Asgardian as THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is set to hit theaters November 5, 2021.