IT WASN'T THE MOUSTACHE THAT BOTHERED HIM MOST Nor the straightened, dyed hair, pasted down over his forehead. Nor the jackboots or the brown shirt. Nor even the sweat-inducing fat suit clinging beneath it all. When Taika Waititi first looked at himself in the mirror as Adolf Hitler, the thing that really made him uncomfortable was the swastika band wrapped around his left arm. “It’s so bright and in your face,” he grimaces. “It’s just a horrible thing to look at.”
Today, late September in Hollywood, Waititi’s hair is back to its springy, grey-flecked self, and he’s stretched out on a couch wriggling his toes in a pair of odd houndstooth socks. Unlike, say, Charlie Chaplin, who lampooned der Führer in 1940’s The Great Dictator, Waititi couldn’t look any less like Hitler if he tried. But when he first saw himself as the Nazi commander-in-chief, who appears as a ten-year-old German boy’s imaginary friend in Waititi’s latest film Jojo Rabbit, he wasn’t so much shocked by the transformation as mortified.
“I was just sort of embarrassed. That’s the main thing. I was embarrassed all the time to look like that. Going on set, I’d say, ‘Look, sorry everyone.’ It felt like it was hard for it not to be gratuitous. You start asking yourself why you’re really doing it: ‘Why am I dressed like this?’”
It’s a good question. After directing the raucous ard ridiculously successful Thor: Ragnarok for Marvel Studios, Taika Waititi arguably could have made any movie he wanted. “The next logical choice was Batman, wasn’t it?” he says. Instead, he chose to make a whimsical satire set in Nazi Germany, starring himself as the founder of the Third Reich.
It’s fair to ask: what the hell was he thinking?
TAIKA AND ADOLF go back a long way. Despite being half-Russian-Jewish (on his mother Robin’s side), at around the age of 12 he became fascinated by Hitler — primarily that moustache which, confusingly for young Taika, the Führer shared with the none-more-loveable Chaplin. He also started obsessively drawing swastikas. He’d scribble them on his school notebooks, then instantly feel guilty and quickly turn them into windows before anybody noticed. Soon all his schoolbooks were covered in pictures of houses. There is a moment in Waititi’s semi-autobiographical 2010 film Boy where, in the role of the title character’s no-good dad, he reveals a swastika etched into his childhood bedroom wall, hidden behind a hanging picture. “Don’t get into the Nazi stuff,” he warns his kid, as if talking directly to his past self.
Of course, grown-up Taika didn’t heed that advice, creatively speaking. Around the time he was making Boy, his mother told him about a novel she’d just read, Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, which involved a Hitler-worshipping German kid who discovers and ultimately befriends a Jewish girl hiding in his attic during World War II. It is tempting to think that, having drawn on the Maori side of his childhood for Boy, he realised Caging Skies would offer him a chance to explore his Jewish heritage. But, says Waititi, “It’s not about me trying to make a Jewish film, or a white film.” It was more about Waititi trying to fathom the terrible acts people commit during wartime, despite lessons we should have learned from the past. He’d been reading about the Bosnian War, keen to investigate exactly what had happened during this conflict, which had raged on the other side of the world while he was a teenager in New Zealand, more interested in going out and “kissing girls”. He was shocked and disgusted by what he learned. “I could not believe how atrocious some of the violence was against civilians,” he says, “and against children and against women.” It made him wonder how, after the horrors of World War II, anything like that could still happen. Curious, he looked up how many conflicts had occured since 1945. He soon gave up. There have been hundreds.
“The cynical part of me, which I really fight with a lot, tries to tell me that we will never learn our lesson,” he says. “But the optimist in me keeps reminding me that we have to keep creating art, and we have to keep teaching each other lessons and telling these stories. And we have to try our hardest to raise children to understand that peace, tolerance and understanding are better.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
HIS NUMBER'S UP
AFTER 14 YEARS, THE LONGEST TENURE OF ANY BOND, DANIEL CRAIG IS ABOUT TO HANG UP HIS MARTINI GLASS AND WALTHER PPK. EMPIRE TRACKS 007 ACROSS THE GLOBE, FROM LONDON TO JAMAICA AND NEW YORK, TO BRING YOU THE ULTIMATE INTEL ON NO TIME TO DIE. AND HIS EMOTIONAL FAREWELL...
THE FALL GUYS
In 2011, Zack Stentz and Ashley Edward Miller were the hottest new screenwriting team in Hollywood. Then they disappeared. Eight years later, they tell EMPIRE their cautionary tale; revealing the tough reality of a writer's life Hollywood
The last blockbuster to be released in the 1980s, Tango & Cash seemed like a no-brainer: a buddy-cop team-up for two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to spectacularly come off
BLAZING a TRAIL
Queen & Slim IS A ROAD MOVIE, A TENDER ROMANCE AND AN UNFLINCHING LOOK AT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLACK IN 21ST CENTURY AMERICA. EMPIRE ASSEMBLES ITS WRITER, DIRECTOR AND TWO STARS FOR A FRANK, FREEWHEELING CONVERSATION ABOUT WHY IT NEEDED TO BE MADE
HOW SAM MENDES AND TEAM TURNED WORLD WAR I DRAMA 1917INTO A REAL-TIME, ONE-TAKE WONDER
An Oscar-winning director. The world's biggest pop star. A classic West End musical. Judi Dench with a tail. The biggest gamble of the year
Ever since the trailer dropped the world has been mesmerized by Cats. We journey deep inside the maddest, milkiest film of 2019
The Many Parts Of Martin Lawrence
As the comedian makes a bigscreen comeback, he talks us through his greatest roles
The Master Of Suspense
With a string of dazzling, high-concept thrillers, bong joon ho has drawn comparisons to hitchcock. But his films also have a strong social message, and his latest, parasite, is no exception
Out Of The Cage
From the ashes of Suicide Squad has risen something fresh, bold and exciting: birds of prey. Inside the first-ever female-ensemble superhero film
Wonder Woman Swings Into The '80s
Director Patty Jenkins on setting Diana Prince loose in the era of excess
STAR WARS: TAIKA WAITITI TO DIRECT NEW FILM
Taika Waititi, the New Zealand filmmaker of “Jojo Rabbit” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” will direct a new “Star Wars” film.
Scarlett Fever! My Best Is Yet To Come
With two Oscar nods, it’s her time to shine!
Taika Waititi Takes On The Marvel, Star Wars And Dc Universes
Following the US$854 million success of Thor: Ragnarok, which he imbued with the boy-in-a-sandbox energy of his irreverent indie films, Kiwi actor and director Taika Waititi takes on the Marvel, Star Wars and DC universes. But first, Jojo Rabbit, a World War II ‘anti-hate satire’ in which he plays a German kid’s imaginary friend: Hitler. (Yeah, that one.)
Our Caesar - Can The Country Come Back From Trump?
The Republic already looks like rome in ruins.
Fashion can be second skin, a poignant yet powerful form of self-expression. In an exclusive with Bazaar, fifteen trendsetters rummage through their memories, and wardrobes, to share their personal journeys of crafting their most compelling look
LA EXTRA A AVENTURA DE RUDOLF HESS: VUELO MISTERIOSO
El 10 de mayo de 1941, tras el fracaso de la Batalla de Inglaterra y en vísperas de la invasión de la URSS –con Alemania, pues, dividida en dos frentes–, el que fuera mano derecha de Hitler se subió a un Messerschmitt en Augsburgo y puso rumbo a Escocia en solitario. Atrapado por los ingleses, Hess declararía que buscaba la paz. ¿Era así realmente?
EXPEDIENTE HITLER: DE LA OPERACION FOXLEY A LA “TRAMA ARGENTINA”
En junio de 1944, uno de los guardaespaldas del Führer cayó prisionero de los británicos y reveló la invariable ruta de los paseos matutinos de este por los alrededores de su casa de retiro, al sur de los Alpes alemanes. Era la oportunidad soñada para matar al líder nazi y acabar con la guerra: ¿por qué no se llevó a cabo? ¿Y de dónde surgió luego el mito de que Hitler no había muerto realmente el 30 de abril de 1945?
ALL BLACK BABY BOOM!
They may be All Blacks, but there’s a whole lot of pink in the lives of rugby stars Richie Mo’unga, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett with the arrival of two little girls – and one on the way any day now!
1940 El año en que los nazis aterrorizaron al mundo
Hace ochenta años, Alemania ocupó Europa Occidental en una operación relámpago. Usando el factor sorpresa, la rapidez y los medios bélicos más modernos de la época, la apisonadora nazi sembró el terror y parecía invencible en su afán de dominar el mundo.
WE WERE THERE EVERYWHERE
Indians fought on every front in World War II —the deserts of North Africa, the plains of Europe, the isles in the Pacific, the plantations of Malaya, the jungles of Burma, and finally the hills of Imphal and Kohima. Their valour and resilience helped the Allies win some of the fiercest battles of the war. THE WEEK looks at India’s world war—a story that is now all but forgotten