Much of the conversation surrounding Fox Searchlight’s upcoming Oscar contender “Jojo Rabbit” has centered on writer-director Taika Waititi starring in the film as an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler, but it turns out that was a part the filmmaker never intended to play himself. In a new interview with Business Insider, Waititi reveals it was Fox Searchlight that demanded he take on Hitler.
All Waititi knew about the Hitler role when writing the “Jojo Rabbit” script was that he did not want to cast an A-list movie actor like Brad Pitt out of fear a high profile star in the role would dominate headlines. Fox Searchlight executives fell in love with Waititi’s script and told him, “We’re only interested if you play Hitler.” Wapiti’s response to that now: “[It] was lunacy to me.”
Fox Searchlight eventually made a successful pitch to Waititi to appear in front of the camera as well. “They made a good point which was that particular role is written a certain way and it needs to be handled by the person who invented that character,” Waititi told Business Insider. “Part of it, like we said, is the celebrity distraction thing, but also because the way I wrote it, and because I knew how it needed to be played, it fell on me.”
Waititi continued, “It actually made it easier to play because I didn’t have to deal with someone else filtering what I was trying to do. They were right, looking back on it. If I worked with another actor maybe that person would have researched it too much or tried to do a more authentic version of Hitler and pulled away the buffoonery I was after.”
The inclusion of an imaginary Adolf Hitler has proven to be one of the most divisive elements of “Jojo Rabbit.” The movie became a full-blown Oscar contender when it took home the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Last year’s TIFF winner “Green Book” ended up winning Best Picture, one of several TIFF winners to do so. For Waititi, starring as Hitler in the film also meant directing the movie in a Hitler costume. The filmmaker said that part of accepting the role “was horrible”
“I was just embarrassed on set,” Waititi said. “Having to be dressed like that and having to talk to people. Often I took off the mustache between set ups or put a hat on. Or I would take the jacket off. But still, you catch yourself in a reflection and you’re reminded. For most people it’s something like seeing themselves and going, ‘I forgot, I got a haircut yesterday.’ For me it was, ‘Ah, I forgot, I look like Hitler.”
Fox Searchlight is opening “Jojo Rabbit” in select theaters October 18.