Taika Waititi (‘Jojo Rabbit’): Playing Hitler ‘doesn’t look cool’ and how comedy ‘opens audiences up’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“It doesn’t look cool; it’s not like dressing up as Batman,” confesses Taika Waititi about playing an imaginary satirized version of Adolf Hitler in “Jojo Rabbit.” He continues, “Seeing myself in the costume and make-up is not something you get excited by. You feel a bit of embarrassment. And when you’re directing, there’s this hassle having to look like that.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Waititi above.

Waititi not only plays the buffonish Hitler but is the writer and director of “Jojo Rabbit.” The film tells the story of the child Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) growing up in WW2 Germany who interacts with his imaginary friend Hitler. He has to confront his worldview when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. The film has been lauded on the awards circuit, scoring nominations from the Golden Globes, SAG, DGA, PGA, WGA and Gold Derby. It has six Oscar nominations, with Waititi himself being recognized in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories.

The director explains the message of the film is “don’t be a Nazi! The film is about a boy indoctrinated to hate who’s learning he can think for himself. When you get enough ignorant people together it’s hard to break out of that. We’ve seen this in many parts of the world over history and also right now. The film gives commentary on the way the world seems to be experiencing hate, intolerance, racism and hate speech. That stuff has kinda come back into fashion. I really wanted to address that as best I could. To see people not for their differences but as what they are, which is human beings.”

Unlike most World War 2 films, “Jojo” conveys its ideas through comedy. Waititi reveals, “I like films that use comedy to help deliver an important message. It opens audiences up a bit more. It makes them more receptive. They absorb that message a lot easier when they’ve been laughing. Tonally when you look at the content and the feeling of the film, it was always going to be difficult to get right. Part of that was in the screenplay, but the balancing really comes through in the edit. Ultimately, the film’s a fable. So, we were never going to do something that’s super dramatic or felt like the other World War II films that had gone before it.”

“Jojo Rabbit” carries on the tradition of this writer/director telling stories from the perspective of children, adding to his work on “Boy” (2010) and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016). He says that “children have a more honest way of reflecting what they see. There’s that saying that ‘children hold a mirror up to us.’ It can be way more profound and powerful than when adults try to interpret this adult world. That’s why I love working with young actors. The performances that they give, when they capture it, it’s the best performances in the world. It’s better than some of the best seasoned actors who have learned all these tricks and techniques over the years.”

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