Taika Waititi stopped by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Thursday night where he discussed the difficulty he had when pitching Jojo Rabbit, feeling “embarrassed” for playing Hitler and how his new film sheds light on what’s happening in today’s society.
After the Jojo Rabbit director joined the late-night host onstage, Noah was quick to joke to Waititi that his new film is “truly one of the strangest films” but will have audiences racing to watch it. The film centers on a young boy (played by Roman Griffin Davis) growing up in Nazi Germany and continuously consults his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi). With a controversial main character and plot, Waititi admitted that his film was a hard project to pitch.
He went on to explain that the film was a hard sell because it “shifts around quite a lot.” “It’s a comedy, drama and tragedy. It’s a real mix,” he explained.
Noah said he was intrigued by the film’s underlying message, which he interpreted as informing the audience how “we are conditioned from the time we are children.” Noah also said that the film provokes a myriad of emotions such as anger, sadness and laughter but ultimately “feels like what’s happening today.”
“You feel people who are radicalized and you go, ‘why do you have this hate or why do you feel the way you do?’ and they go, ‘well that’s all I’ve known,’ ” Noah said.
Waititi agreed as he also pegged the question: “Isn’t it weird that in 2019 someone still has to make a movie trying to explain to people not to be a Nazi?”
In the film Waititi — who is Jewish — takes on the role of Hitler, but realized that despite seeming “good on paper,” he didn’t feel so great after seeing himself in costume. “The main way to describe it all is embarrassed. I was embarrassed. Imagine trying to direct people dressed like that,” he explained.
Though there are a myriad of existing films that take place in a time of war or a historical event, Waititi said he approached Jojo Rabbit differently by telling the story “from a child’s point of view.”
“You’ve never seen films with a backdrop of conflict or wars really from a child’s point of view and I really wanted to explore that world,” he explained.
Having worked with child actors before in his previous projects, Waititi said that Griffin carried the film and “saved me from embarrassment.”
Watch Waititi’s full interview below.