Taika Waititi Discusses ‘Jojo Rabbit’ Oscar Noms & Discovering Michael Fassbender’s Comedic Chops On ‘Next Goal Wins’

Earning two Oscar nominations today, for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi isn’t one to rest on his laurels. The singular writer/director has already completed production on his next feature, Next Goal Wins, with Thor: Love and Thunder also on the way.

“With the Thor film, I can’t share much, for obvious reasons. We’re going to be writing all the way up until we shoot, and then throughout the shoot. But with Next Goal Wins, it’s one of the happiest shoots I’ve ever been on. It’s a 99% Polynesian cast; Michael Fassbender is a comic revelation,” Waititi told Deadline today. “I think he should just stop doing dramas from now on because he’s so funny, and so good at improvising. To me, it was a real revelation.”

For Waititi, seeing Jojo Rabbit rack up six Oscar nominations today felt like a full-circle moment. The director was first nominated back in 2005 for his short film, Two Cars, One Night, and losing that Oscar has been a sore spot for Waititi ever since. “Losing to Andrea Arnold, it took me probably 13 years just to get over that. Because what she did to me back then, it was disrespectful. Although Wasp was an incredible short film, she didn’t need to do that. And look at me now, Andrea,” the director deadpanned. “I played the long game, man. I played the long game.”

In some sense, today’s nominations felt to Waititi like a vindication of the creative risks he’d taken with Jojo Rabbit. Based on a novel by Christine Leunens, the timely ‘anti-hate satire’ centers on Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a member of the Hitler Youth whose best friend is an imaginary representation of Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself). Furious when he learns that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl in the attic, young Jojo finds that he must ultimately choose between love and hate. “I never wanted to make something that was very easy, because for me, if it’s too easy, then what’s the point?” Waititi said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, it’s divisive,’ but where I come from, ‘divisive’ is not a swear word. It’s a means to create discussion.”

While shooting Jojo Rabbit, what Waititi enjoyed most was the opportunity to work with Scarlett Johansson. “She was incredible, and brought something to it that really elevated the whole thing to a level that I’d never even considered,” the director said. “And I think that it’s probably the best version of Scarlett that I’ve ever seen.”

With the film out in the world, Waititi says, what’s been most gratifying is seeing younger viewers engage with it. “We made a real effort to make the film PG, so that young people could see it. Roman Griffin Davis showed the film to a bunch of his classmates back in London, and one of his friends said, ‘This is a film about a kid learning to think for himself.’ And I think that’s really the ultimate goal,” the director remarked, “to try and influence people into thinking for themselves, and also thinking from the perspective of tolerance and love.”

In addition to its nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, Jojo Rabbit will compete at the Oscars in the categories of Film Editing, Costume Design, Production Design and Supporting Actress.

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