You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in ‘Jojo Rabbit’

“Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided to say yes to the part.

“You start [out] thinking of bigger stars to be part of a film like this or to play this imaginary Hitler. But at the end of the day, it came down to the simple fact that if we had done that, that would have overshadowed the heart of the story — which is this beautiful story, this relationship story between these two kids,” he explained. “And if there was a big celebrity then it would have become the ‘so-and-so Hitler film,’ which is not at all what this is.”

Jojo Rabbit” tells the story of a 10-year-old boy (and member of the Hitler Youth) named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) from authorities. Waititi’s Hitler is Jojo’s imaginary friend and taking on the challenging role — and even more controversial subject matter — seems to have paid off for the film’s producer, writer, director and star.

The film’s premiere was held just half a mile from the Dolby Theatre, the home of the Oscars. After “Jojo Rabbit” won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, many have speculated that the film and its troupe of actors could find themselves in the running when statuettes are handed out there on Feb. 9, 2020.

“I do all of my work based on the hope of winning an award. That’s the first thing I say to my manager, ‘I’m not even gonna read it unless I might be an award in it,'” Stephen Merchant quipped before getting serious about why he said yes to a role as a Gestapo agent. “It just seemed like a brave, audacious movie to be making in 2019 through a major Hollywood studio.”

Alfie Allen added, “We’ve been satirizing Hitler for well over 80 years. So, I would say, yeah, you should champion movies that try and do something different and unique.”

“It sounds a little cliche, but I like to think that I don’t write a film or go into making a film just with the express intent of getting awards, cause this seems really messed up and that’s not a good way to create art,” Waititi admitted. “[But after the awards buzz] started happening, I became even more proud of the film.”

While Waititi and the rest of the film’s adult cast — Merchant, Johansson, Allen, Rebel Wilson and Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell — may be used to good buzz around a project and the glitz and glamour of red carpet awards season, all the hubbub and excitement is new for the younger stars — Griffin Davis, Mackenzie and Archie Yates.

“I just feel like passing out right now,” Yates quipped. “We’re just kind of feeling like it’s a dream and it’s, we don’t really know what’s going on or what to do. It’s just we’re just winging it and it’s so fun.”

Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson and Archie Yates'Jojo Rabbit' film premiere, After Party, Hollywood American Legion, Los Angeles, USA - 15 Oct 2019
CREDIT: Todd Williamson/January Images/Shutterstock

After the screening, the cast and producer Carthew Neal mingled with guests including Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” co-stars Tessa Thompson and Luke Hemsworth, Minnie Driver, Shawn Levy and Debbie Gibson. The reception spanned all three levels of the military venue, as well as the patio outside, with attendees sipping cocktails made with Casamigos tequila and toasting the film’s prospects at the box office and beyond.

“Jojo Rabbit” is in limited theaters Oct. 18.

More Film

  • 21 Bridges

    Film Review: Chadwick Boseman in '21 Bridges'

    For those who discovered Chadwick Boseman in the role of “Black Panther,” it’s about time the actor showed audiences what else he’s capable of. Sure, Boseman was back on the big screen a few months later in “Avengers: Infinity War” — but Marvel obviously underestimated his potential, giving Boseman far too little to do, then [...]

  • Mexican Writer Diego Osorno Speaks to

    Diego Osorno on ‘1994,’ Netflix’s Doc Build in Mexico

    LOS CABOS  —  Netflix is proving a boon to documentary creation in Mexico. That boon has not yet yielded a fully-fledged boom. The U.S. streaming giant has just released the first results of  its documentary drive. The build in cinematic standard non-fiction works in, however, palpable, the biggest case in point to date, Diego Osorno’s [...]

  • Agnes GodardPress Conference for New Currents

    Los Cabos Panel Homes in on the Female Gaze

    Female cinematographers are still a relatively rare breed in Latin America, and in the rest of the world for that matter. At Los Cabos, three femme cinematographers weighed in on the challenges and rewards of their chosen profession. The panel was composed of Mexico-based Uruguayan Maria Secco whose credits include the acclaimed “La Jaula de [...]

  • Roman Polanski's 'An Officer and a

    'An Officer and a Spy' Leads French Box Office Despite Roman Polanski Controversy

    Roman Polanski’s latest film, “An Officer and a Spy,” is leading the French box office after its opening weekend and fifth day out in theaters despite new sexual-assault accusations against the director and truncated promotion for the film. Released by Gaumont last Wednesday across 545 screens, “An Officer and a Spy” has grossed an estimated [...]

  • Florence Pugh and Beanie Feldstein

    Florence Pugh Calls Marvel's 'Black Widow' Movie Raw, Painful but Beautiful

    Florence Pugh just wrapped shooting on Marvel’s standalone film “Black Widow” starring Avenger Scarlett Johansson. “It was one of the most bizarre, nuts, extravaganza experiences,” the “Little Women” star told “Booksmart’s” Beanie Feldstein in conversation for Variety’s “Actors on Actors.” “I just finished on it about three weeks ago. Landed the role in March, April, [...]

  • Luis Javier Henaine

    Panorama Global Announces ‘Desaparecer del todo,’ ‘Moonwalker (EXCLUSIVE)

    Headed by Alberto Müffelmann and Gerardo Gatica, Mexican indie production house Panorama Global has boarded Luis Javier Henaine’s feature “Desaparecer del todo,” a Moonlight Pictures production co-produced with Pablo Zimbron’s Varios Lobos. The supernatural thriller, based on true events, explores witchcraft in Mexico through the eyes of a tabloid crime photographer. Varios Lobos and Panorama [...]

  • Moonheart Entertainment Scores Investment From Malini

    Moonheart Entertainment Scores Investment From Saba Industries Group Owner (EXCLUSIVE)

    Malini Saba, owner of Saba Industries Group, has made a key investment in Moonheart Entertainment, the newly launched gaming, television film, and media company that is focused on providing content for family audiences. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Saba, whose company is a privately-held, manufacturer and global exporter of rice and other [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content