While Jojo Rabbit now exists as the sixth film directed by Taika Waititi, it’s a project that was written before three of those movies were actually made. The script for the World War II-set satire notably made The Black List in 2012 – the annual list of the most popular unproduced screenplays in Hollywood – but Waititi had to wait a full seven years to get it made.
If you were in his shoes, you might think that the significant time gap would be at least a bit frustrating, but the truth is that he doesn’t see it that way. Instead, Taika Waititi is actually happy that it took nearly a decade to get made, because he feels he used that period to become a better filmmaker more equipped to handle the material.
I sat down with Taika Waititi at the Los Angeles press day for Jojo Rabbit earlier this month, and opened our conversation asking about the extended spell between his original drafts of the movie and actually getting to shoot it. He noted that the new film probably wouldn’t have been the same as it is now had he had the chance to shoot and cut it back in 2012, but also added that the timetable for the project wasn’t exactly a new experience:
I really do feel like the film would be different if I'd made it when I wrote it. I had to really remind myself that I don't think any of my films have been made as soon as I've finished writing them. Eagle vs. Shark, I think that was like the year after I wrote it, but Boy, What We Do In The Shadows, [Hunt For The] Wilderpeople, all of those were about at least five or six years between writing the film and shooting the film.
To help you with the math their, that means Taika Waititi wrote Boy around 2005/2006; What We Do In The Shadows around 2009/2010, and Hunt For The Wilderpeople in 2011/2012. Thor: Ragnarok is an exception because he didn't write the script, as those duties belonged to the credited Eric Pearson.
With the exception of Boy (which came out in 2010), Taika Waititi had the opportunity to make all of those films in between the writing and filming of Jojo Rabbit – and it’s interesting to note that those movies employ a wide variety of tones and allowed the filmmaker to explore multiple genres. They were experiences that he feels ultimately made him a better director, and that in combination with getting a bit of extra perspective on the script made the wait worth it. Said Waititi,
I feel like that's the amount of time that they needed. I think they are better films because of that, because they just sat there and percolated, and I evolved into a better filmmaker. In a way I'm really glad I waited.
You can watch Taika Waititi discuss the time period between Jojo Rabbit’s script being written, and actually being produced by clicking play on the video below!
Loosely based on author Christine Leunens' novel “Caging Skies,” Jojo Rabbit centers on a young boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who lives with his vivacious mother (Scarlett Johansson) in Germany towards the end of World War II. Jojo is a naïve follower of Nazism, having Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) as an imaginary friend, and being enrolled in the Hitler Youth program… but that all becomes a serious conflict when he discovers that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their house.
Jojo Rabbit is now playing in limited release, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with Taika Waititi and the movie’s cast!