Taika Waititi stopped by the Croisette on Friday to discuss several of his upcoming projects, while describing his time on undoubtedly the biggest film of his career to date.
Speaking in Cannes at the International Film Finance Forum presented by Winston Baker, together with actor-turned-director Paul Dano, the New Zealand filmmaker talked about his dark WWII comedy Jojo Rabbit, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell and is due to start shooting in two weeks in Europe.
“It’s really upbeat fun, it’s a heartfelt, dark comedy, I didn’t even have to pitch it to Fox Searchlight,” he said of the satire, in which a young boy longs to be a part of the Hitler Youth and whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. “It’s really hard to pitch WWII movies, and then you say, don’t worry, it’s going to be funny.”
Further down the line, Waititi has his stop-motion animation film Bubbles, which Netflix acquired in Cannes last year.
“I always wanted to do a side project while making other films,” he said of the film. “It’s the fascinating and hilarious story of Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee, the life and times. We’re all fascinated by Michael, but what about the characters on the periphery? No one ever asks about Bubbles and how he felt during that time.”
Waititi’s and Jemaine Clement’s hit mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows was recently greenlit for a TV series by FX, with Kayvan Novak (Danger Mouse), Matt Berry (Toast of London), Natasia Demetriou (Year Friends) and Harvey Guillen (The Thundermans) set to star.
However, Waititi suggested that his involvement in the show might be limited, and confirmed that he wouldn’t be returning to appear in front of the camera.
“It’s the same universe, but different characters,” he said. “It’s like a documentary crew in New York found this new bunch of vampires.”
But it was Thor: Ragnorok, his hugely successful first trip into Marvel’s superhero universe last year, that Waititi was able to elaborate on.
“Thor was such huge comfort shift, and something I was not prepared for at all,” he said. “But with my smaller films, I wasn’t feeling very challenged; I wasn’t feeling out of my comfort zone.”
Despite Thor: Ragnorok being Waititi’s first studio film, he said he was surprised by how much freedom he was given.
“There are jokes in there that have no business being in that movie,” he said. “But Kevin Feige just said, ‘Yeah, more of that stuff.’ It was very strange what they were encouraging me to do.”
Ragnorok shot in Australia, which Waititi said was too far away to have any studio executives visit and interfere.
“I was always looking over my shoulders wondering why they’re letting us do this,” he said. “Then I realized they could change anything in post.”
A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter’s May 12 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.