Fox Searchlight has set an October release date for Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit,” making it by default one of the studio’s fall contenders with a possible premiere at one of the major fall film festivals. However, anyone expecting a traditional awards season release just doesn’t know Taika. The film is billed as an “anti-hate satire” and takes place in Nazi Germany where a young boy must face off against his own love of country and his imaginary friend, an idiotic version of Adolf Hitler. Waititi is playing the Nazi leader himself, but he didn’t spend any time researching or preparing for the role.
“I didn’t have to do any research, and I didn’t do any research,” Waititi told Deadline about his unorthodox interpretation of Hitler. “I didn’t base him on anything I’d seen about Hitler before. I just made him a version of myself that happened to have a bad haircut and a shitty little mustache. And a mediocre German accent.”
Waititi continued, “It would just be too weird to play the actual Hitler, and I don’t think people would enjoy the character as much. Because he was such a fucking c*nt, and everyone knows that as well. I think people have got to relate to really enjoy the ride.”
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Because the “Jojo Rabbit” version of Hitler is that of a young boy’s imaginary friend, Waititi did not have to base his Nazi leader off any historical findings or accuracies. Waititi was asked at TIFF last year why he wanted to play Hitler, especially since his own mother is Jewish, and he replied, “The answer is simple: what better fuck you to that guy?”
The subject matter in “Jojo Rabbit” and Waititi’s portrayal of Hitler could spark controversy when the film arrives later this fall, but the writer-director told Deadline he was aware of the line he could not cross throughout the entire production.
“There’s always a line. But for me I think I find it naturally; what would I feel embarrassed to show people? Then I wouldn’t put it in,” Waititi said. “If there’s any time I feel like something is inappropriate I pull back. There’s no way I’d do anything just because it might be controversial and might seem like it’ll get people talking. We find that kind of shock comedy act disingenuous and fake.”
Fox Searchlight will open “Jojo Rabbit” in theaters October 18.