When it came to playing Adolf Hitler in his anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit, director Taika Waititi realized the best actor was standing in his shoes.
“I scoured the Earth for the perfect actor and sometimes your search for the right person is staring at you right in the mirror” quipped Waititi.
Jojo Rabbit follows a young boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who is impassioned, yet brainwashed, over his membership in the Hilter youth. His mother (Scarlett Johansson) is a rebel and hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in the attic. Should he snitch? The voice in his head, Hitler, his imaginary friend, pulls and prods on the boy’s conscience.
“It’s a 10-year old boy’s manifestation of Hitler, the little devil that sits on your shoulder; a version of Jojo giving him terrible advice while he’s being lured by a Jewish girl,” said Waititi.
Talking about his style, Waititi acknowledged the loss of innocence in his films such as Boy and The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
“We (adults) don’t look very sane to children,” said Waititi about his motiffs, “children are smarter in the sense and they have a view of the world that’s a lot clearer.”
Waititi also uses a lot of improv on the set, but not strictly for improv sake. And his producer Carthew Neal always aims to allow enough flexibility in production for the schedule to change on a last minute’s notice.
Another big screen Waititi characteristic is his swing between laughs and gravitas.
“I’ve never been able to separate the humor and drama because it’s true to the human experience and everyday is a constant swinging back and forth between comedy, tragedy and horror,” explained the Thor: Ragnarok filmmaker.
“That’s been my style and I won’t stop doing that,” he added.
Some awards prognosticators believe Jojo Rabbit is this year’s Life is Beautiful in the season’s race.
“It’s a message of tolerance, acceptance and love,” said Waititi, “I think now more than ever comedy is one of the most powerful tools we have in fighting prejudice.”
The Fox Searchlight movie opens on Oct. 18.
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