Taika Waititi is continuing his Hollywood winning streak with “Next Goal Wins.”
The long-awaited soccer-centric comedy, distributed by Searchlight Pictures, is based on the true story of a Dutch soccer coach who helps the American Samoa national team in Hawaii reach new heights.
Michael Fassbender stars as Thomas Rongen, the coach who finds himself on the other side of the world put in charge of the planet’s worst soccer team, per the official synopsis. After suffering a world record loss in a competitive international football match, a crushing 31-0 defeat to Australia, the American Samoa national team sought to uncover a hidden spark within their side by appointing a new and innovative coach with some different ideas.
Rongen’s life story was captured in a 2014 documentary of the same name, leading Waititi to co-write its adaptation alongside Iain Morris.
Elisabeth Moss stars as Coach Rongen’s ex-wife and Will Arnett plays a soccer executive. Samoan-New Zealand actor Oscar Kightley is cast as the head of American Samoa’s soccer federation. Actor Kamaina plays the trans football player Jaiyah Saelua, whose relationship with Coach Rongen is a large part of the film, as Waititi teased.
“Years ago, I watched it and couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this story before. I’d never made a sports film before, and I really wanted to try that out,” Waititi told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s about a sport I don’t know that much about. Rugby is the national sport in New Zealand, but it’s about underdogs, and I just love underdog stories. Most of my films are about people who live on the margins, or are a little bit left out, and it just fit right in for me.”
He added, “It’s a true story, but it’s got all the elements that all the great sports films have. It’s basically the ‘Cool Runnings’ of soccer.”
Waititi also admitted to fictionalizing certain aspects of the true story for the big screen.
“The thing about turning documentaries into films is, often documentaries don’t have a villain,” Waititi said, citing the character played by Will Arnett. Armie Hammer was originally cast in the role.
“But you need some sort of outside force that’s threatening the team to give the story some stakes,” the “Thor: Love and Thunder” director added. “That’s what I’ve been conditioned to learn in Hollywood. It’s like, ‘Well, you can’t just have a story where nothing bad ever happens to anyone!'”
David Fane, Beulah Koale, Lehi Falepapalangi, Semu Filipo, Uli Latukefu, and Rachel House also star. “Next Goal Wins” is produced by writer-director Waititi, Jonathan Cavendish, Garrett Basch, Mike Brett, and Steve Jamison.
“Next Goal Wins” premieres November 17. Check out the trailer below.