Following his breakout big-budget directorial hit Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi is soon returning to the forefront of conversation with his upcoming Nazi Germany satire Jojo Rabbit. Far from the likes of good-natured Korg, Waititi will be emulating Adolf Hitler this time around. Obviously, there was a bit of stickiness surrounding the role. Here’s what he said:
I felt weird about it. Even though the character in my film is not evil — he's got a 10-year-old's brain because he comes out of Jojo's head — there's elements to him that are shared with the actual guy.
That’s right! Taika Waititi isn’t necessarily playing Hitler in Jojo Rabbit, he's playing the titular main character’s imaginary friend version of the Nazi leader. Even still, it must have felt inherently taboo to walk on set in full Nazi garb – swastika, mustache and all. Not to mention the fact he’s also does double-duty as director. In Waititi’s words to THR:
That was a sad moment for me, yelling at the crew dressed as Adolf Hitler in public… I looked like Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator.
Awkward! Oddly enough, it seems Taika Waititi’s imaginary Hitler plays as a dark-comedic relief during Jojo Rabbit. 10-year-old Jojo is the butt of jokes among the other young recruits of Hitler’s army and then he finds out his mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
Taika Waititi had been trying to get his screenplay for Jojo Rabbit -- an adaptation of Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies -- made for eight years before Fox Searchlight gave him the greenlight to direct it in 2018. Thor: Ragnarok’s success the fall prior certainly must have had something to do with it. For the near decade he’d been trying to get it made, his goofy Hitler was met with scares and rejections.
When Disney acquired Fox earlier this year, reports also surfaced that Jojo Rabbit’s new parent company was worried about the movie fitting in with their branding. Scarlett Johansson recently shot down the reports, explaining how “excited” Disney execs were about the dark comedy at a dinner she attended following the acquisition.
Jojo Rabbit may have controversial roots, but it’s perhaps part of the reason why the movie is getting so much buzz ahead of Oscar season. The movie is one of Toronto International Film Festival’s most anticipated films. Stay tuned for reactions following its premiere this Sunday, September 8.
Why the packed schedule, you might ask? Taika Waititi said, “it’s just nice to be wanted, sometimes.”