“I dreamt of becoming a filmmaker in my 30s, it was an arranged marriage,” said the director at TIFF Masterclass this morning with festival co-head Cameron Bailey.
“I was painting throughout my 20s then when I was 28/29, I realized I hadn’t tried filmmaking,” he said.
However it was a sour acting gig on the New Zealand TV series The Strip that would propel Waititi behind the camera. Ya see, he was playing a stripper “and I thought there’s got to be more for me.” And it was in a green room, wearing a G-string that propelled Waititi to write the live-action short right there and then Two Cars, One Night which followed two boys and a girl meeting in a carpark outside a pub in rural New Zealand. The short went on to be nominated for 2005 Oscar.
While Waititi has continued on to have a vast directing career from episodes of HBO’s The Flight of the Conchords to the Sundance premiere The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, his resume made a 180 when he jumped from indie’s to Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, a hysterical and vibrant threequel which re-invigorated the superhero franchise and made close to $854M at the global B.O. How has life changed? “I can put three square meals on the table for my kids” says Waititi. “
“I wanted to do something very uncomfortable for myself” the filmmaker told Bailey, and he gave props to Chris Hemsworth, an organically funny guy. “What we managed to do was put more of Chris in the character.” In addition, as Waititi has previously mentioned, he drew inspiration from Kurt Russell’s everyman demeanor in the hijinks-filled, over the top future adventure ’80s pic Big Trouble in Little China. With the news of James Gunn’s firing from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 hanging thick in the air right now, at no point did the audience or the moderator address Waititi’s thoughts on the topic, or whether he’d lend his subversive filmmaking style to that franchise. In fact, he’s too busy prepping an animated film on Michael Jackson’s monkey Bubbles and finishing his World War II comedy Jojo Rabbit which stars himself and Scarlett Johansson. When will it be ready? “It’s a year away” said Waititi.
In regards to Bubbles, Waititi joked, “It’s the story of Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee that has never been told until now, many have tried…i went to Florida, visited Bubble, interviewed him and got the truth.”
Waititi stayed largely mum about Jojo Rabbit only stating that the film which he wrote seven years ago from Christine Leunens’ novel was about “a little boy who wants to be the Nazi he can, and he finds out that his mother his hiding a girl in the attic.”
Asked by an audience member what it meant to be a Maori playing Adolf Hitler, Waititi beamed, “What better f**k you to that guy?!”