December 26, 2019
Taika Watiti went from Flight of the Conchords to Thor Ragnarok. Now he plays the Nazi dictator as a buffoon in his new film, Jojo Rabbit. He talks fighting evil with comedy
Taika Waititi: You dont want to be directing kids with a swastika on your arm
As a boy in New Zealand, Taika Waititi went through a phase of obsessively drawing swastikas all over his notebooks. He knew what Nazis were and what the symbol represented, he says. “But you tell a kid they’re not allowed to do something, that it’s the worst thing to do, and they automatically want to do it.” The transgressive thrill was usually fleeting, he admits. “I’d instantly feel really guilty and turn it into a window.”
Ordinarily, it would be a matter of some concern if that swastika-fixated child grew up to cast himself as Adolf Hitler in his own movie. Jojo Rabbit is a comedy about a wartime German boy whose imaginary friend is, indeed, Hitler. But this is Taika Waititi: not only is he a self-identifying “Polynesian Jew” (his father is Maori; his mother’s father was Jewish), but one of the most likable people on the planet.
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