Taika Waititi

Taika David Cohen ONZM (born 16 August 1975), known professionally as Taika Waititi /ˈtkə wˈtti/ (About this soundlisten),[1] is a New Zealand film and television director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and comedian. He is a recipient of an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Grammy Award, and nominations for two Primetime Emmy Awards. His feature films Boy (2010) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) have each been the top-grossing New Zealand film.[2][3]

Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Waititi at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con
Born
Taika David Cohen

(1975-08-16) 16 August 1975 (age 46)
Other namesTaika Cohen
Alma materVictoria University of Wellington
Occupation
  • Director
  • producer
  • writer
  • actor
  • comedian
Years active1999–present
Known for
Spouse(s)
(m. 2011; sep. 2018)
Children2

Waititi's 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. He co-wrote, co-directed and starred in the horror comedy film What We Do in the Shadows (2014) with Jemaine Clement, which was adapted into a television series of the same name (2019–present). The series has been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. His most recent directing credits include the superhero film Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and the black comedy film Jojo Rabbit (2019), the latter of which he also wrote and starred in as an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler. Jojo Rabbit received six Academy Award nominations and won for Best Adapted Screenplay. Waititi also earned a Grammy Award for producing the film's soundtrack. In addition to directing an episode of the television series The Mandalorian (2019–present), he also voices the character IG-11, for which he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance.

Early lifeEdit

Taika David Cohen[4][5][6] was born in Raukokore in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand's North Island,[7] and grew up in both the East Coast and the Aro Valley of Wellington.[8][9] His father was an artist of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui descent, whilst his mother, Robin Cohen,[10] is a schoolteacher.[11][12] Waititi stated that his mother's family were Russian Jews "mixed with a bit of Irish" and other European ancestry, while his father's side was "Māori and a little bit of French Canadian".[13] Waititi describes himself as a "Polynesian Jew", although he has stated that he never grew up in an "actively practising Jewish household".[14][15][16]

Waititi's parents split up when he was around five,[17] and he was raised primarily by his mother.[8] He attended Onslow College,[18] then studied theatre at Victoria University of Wellington where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1997.[19] He originally used his mother's surname, Cohen, for his work in film and writing, and his father's, Waititi, for visual arts endeavours.[4][20] Following the success of his first short film, he continued to use Waititi professionally.[21]

CareerEdit

Early careerEdit

While a student at Victoria University, Waititi was part of the five-member ensemble So You're a Man, which toured New Zealand and Australia with some success.[22] He was half of the comedy duo The Humourbeasts alongside Jemaine Clement, which received New Zealand's highest comedy accolade, the Billy T Award, in 1999.[23] Among a variety of artistic interests, Waititi began making comical short films for New Zealand's annual 48-hour film contest.[24] His short film Two Cars, One Night earned him an Academy Award nomination in 2005.[25] At the awards ceremony, he famously feigned falling asleep as the nominations were being read.[26][27] His first feature film, a romantic comedy called Eagle vs Shark, was released in U.S. theatres for limited distribution in 2007.[28] It stars Waititi's then-real-life partner, Loren Horsley.[29] That year, Waititi wrote and directed one episode of the TV show Flight of the Conchords and directed another.[30]

His second feature, Boy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010,[31] and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Waititi also took one of the main roles, as the ex-con father who returns to his family. On its release in New Zealand, Boy received enthusiastic reviews[32] and was successful at the local box office, eclipsing several records.[33] Following the film's success, Waititi hoped its signature track, "Poi E", would get to #1 (for the second time) on the New Zealand charts.[34] It reached #3, but became #1 on iTunes.[35] In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city.[36] That year, Waititi portrayed Thomas Kalmaku in the superhero film Green Lantern.[37]

2013–2019: RecognitionEdit

 
Taika Waititi speaking at 2015 Sundance Film Festival

In 2013, Waititi co-wrote, co-directed and acted in the vampire comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with Clement.[38] It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.[39] Waititi and Clement played members of a group of vampires who live in an appropriately gothic house in modern-day Wellington.[40] A television adaptation of the film was commissioned in May 2018, with Waititi as an executive producer and director.[41] The series of the same name premiered on FX in March 2019;[42] its second season received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.[43]

Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[44] When it was released in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke Waititi's own record for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend.[45] Based on a book by Barry Crump, it centres on a young boy (played by Julian Dennison) and a grumpy man (played by Sam Neill) on the run in the forest. Waititi wrote the initial screenplay for the 2016 Disney film Moana,[46] which focused on gender and family. Those elements were passed over in favour of what became the final story.[47]

In 2017, Waititi won the award for New Zealander of the Year, but was unable to receive it in person due to work commitments.[48] That year, he directed his first major studio film, Marvel Studios's Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in October.[49][50] He also portrayed Korg, a Kronan, via motion capture in the film.[51] He had previously directed a short film series for Marvel called Team Thor, chronicling the lives of Thor and his roommate, Darryl Jacobson.[52] Thor: Ragnarok earned critical praise and was successful at the box office.[53][54] Waititi was later consulted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely on Thor's storylines for Avengers: Infinity War, to maintain the character's consistency in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[55][56]

In 2019, Waititi wrote and directed Jojo Rabbit, based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, the 1940s-set story of a child in the Hitler Youth whose mother is secretly hiding a Jewish girl in their home. Waititi plays Adolf Hitler as the boy's imaginary friend.[57] Waititi received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. He won the latter,[58][59] making him the first person of Māori descent to win an Academy Award in a screenplay category, and the first indigenous person to be nominated for and win Best Adapted Screenplay.[60] In 2021 he won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media as a producer of the Jojo Rabbit soundtrack.[61]

In October 2018, Lucasfilm announced that Waititi would be one of the directors of the Star Wars live-action streaming series The Mandalorian, which tells the story of a lone Mandalorian gunfighter in the period between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.[62] The series premiered on 12 November 2019; Waititi also voices a droid bounty hunter named IG-11 in the series.[63] He directed the series' first-season finale, "Chapter 8: Redemption".[64] His voiceover work earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in 2020.[43]

2020–present: Recent careerEdit

In 2020, Waititi narrated a charity reading of James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.[65] He portrayed Ratcatcher in the DC superhero film The Suicide Squad, released in August 2021 to positive reviews.[66][67] Waititi created the comedy series Reservation Dogs, which chronicles the lives of a group of indigenous Oklahoma teens, and comprises a main cast, directors, producers, and writers of indigenous peoples. It premiered on FX to positive reviews.[68][69]

Waititi will write and direct the superhero film Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel to Thor: Ragnarok.[70][71] Principal photography finished in June 2021; it is scheduled for May 2022 release.[71][72] He will also direct a feature film adaptation of the documentary Next Goal Wins.[73] He is set to direct a live-action film adaptation of Akira, co-write a sequel to What We Do in the Shadows titled We're Wolves, and direct and co-write a live-action Star Wars film.[74][75][76]

Waititi is attached to write, direct and executive produce two animated series for Netflix based on Roald Dahl's children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, one adapting the novels and the other focused on the novel's Oompa Loompa characters.[77] He is set to executive produce and direct the Showtime limited series The Auteur, and to executive produce and star as Blackbeard in the HBO Max comedy series Our Flag Means Death.[72][78] He is also slated to write and direct a film based on Flash Gordon for 20th Century Studios.[79]

Personal lifeEdit

Waititi married New Zealand filmmaker Chelsea Winstanley in 2011.[80] They have two daughters.[81] The couple separated in 2018.[82][83]

Waititi incorporates his Māori heritage into his projects, such as by including "indigenous attachments" and conducting a Welcome to Country ceremony during the start of filming. He is an executive producer of the New Zealand films The Breaker Upperers (2018), Baby Done (2020), and Night Raiders (2021), all directed by Māori or indigenous filmmakers.[71]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2007 Eagle vs Shark Yes Yes No
2010 Boy Yes Yes No
2014 What We Do in the Shadows Yes Yes Yes Co-directed and co-written with Jemaine Clement
2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople Yes Yes Yes
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Yes No No
2019 Jojo Rabbit Yes Yes Yes Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture
2022 Thor: Love and Thunder Yes Yes No Post-production;
Co-written with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
TBA Next Goal Wins Yes Yes Yes Post-production;
Co-written with Iain Morris

Executive producer

Short filmsEdit

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2002 John and Pogo Yes Yes No
2004 Two Cars, One Night Yes Yes No Nominated – Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
2005 Tama Tū Yes Yes No
What We Do in the Shadows:
Interviews with Some Vampires
Yes Yes No
2016 Team Thor Yes Yes Yes
2017 Team Thor: Part 2 Yes Yes Yes
2018 Team Darryl Yes Yes Yes

Acting rolesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1999 Scarfies Alex
2001 Snakeskin Nelson
A New Way Home Max Short film
2004 Futile Attraction Waiter
2005 What We Do in the Shadows:
Interviews with Some Vampires
Viago Short film
2007 Eagle vs Shark Gordon
2010 Boy Alamein
2011 Green Lantern Thomas Kalmaku
2013 The Captain[86] The Captain Short film
2014 What We Do in the Shadows Viago
2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople Minister
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Korg
Surtur (motion-capture)
2018 Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss Holy Storsh
Shrimp Bartender Short film
2019 Avengers: Endgame Korg
Jojo Rabbit Adolf Hitler
2021 Save Ralph Ralph (voice) Short film
Deadpool and Korg React Korg Promotional short film
The Suicide Squad Ratcatcher 1
Free Guy Antwan
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain Max Kase Completed
2022 Thor: Love and Thunder Korg Post-production

Other worksEdit

Year Title Role
2016 Doctor Strange Wrote and directed the mid-credits scene (uncredited)
Moana Wrote the initial screenplay[46] (uncredited)

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Director Writer Executive
Producer
Notes
2007–2009 Flight of the Conchords Yes Yes No 4 episodes
2011 Super City Yes No No 6 episodes
2012 The Inbetweeners Yes No No 5 episodes
2018–present Wellington Paranormal No No Yes Co-creator
2019–present What We Do in the Shadows Yes No Yes 3 episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series (2020)
2019 The Mandalorian Yes No No Episode: "Chapter 8: Redemption"[64]
2021 Reservation Dogs No Yes Yes Co-creator

Acting rolesEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2002 The Strip Mostin 13 Episodes
The Tribe Virtual Reality Cowboy No.1 (uncredited) Episode: "Episode #4.24"
2003 Revelations Ali Episode: "Mended Sole"
Freaky Cleaner Episode: "Fridge, Cleaner & Sister"
2007 Flight of the Conchords Gipsy Kings fan (uncredited) Episode: "Drive By"
Cameo; also directed
2009 The Jaquie Brown Diaries Friendly Gypsy Episode: "Brownward Spiral"
2010 Radiradirah Various 8 episodes
2019 What We Do in the Shadows Viago Episode: "The Trial"
The Mandalorian IG-11[87] Voice; 3 episodes
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (2020)
Year of the Rabbit Merrick's Performer Cameo
Rick and Morty Glootie Voice
Episode: "The Old Man and the Seat"
2020 Home Movie: The Princess Bride[88] Westley/The Man in Black
2021 What If...? Korg[89] Voice
Episode: "What If... Thor Were an Only Child?"
TBA Our Flag Means Death Blackbeard Main role, upcoming series; also executive producer[90]

Music videosEdit

CommercialsEdit

Waititi has also been a prolific commercial director. He directed Air New Zealand's "The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made" featuring Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood as they go through where The Lord of the Rings films were shot.[91] The commercial went viral amassing over 19 million views on YouTube.[92] Waititi directed Tesco's "Borg," which features a comical Thor-esque character shopping in the supermarket;[93] he went on to direct Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok years later.

Frequent collaboratorsEdit

Actor Eagle vs Shark (2007) Boy (2010) What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Jojo Rabbit (2019) Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Notes
Jemaine Clement     Clement and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords, Radiradirah and Wellington Paranormal, and Clement has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay.
Rachel House         House also has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay.
Stu Rutherford         Co-invented a lighting system used on certain scenes in Thor: Ragnarok[97]
Cohen Holloway           [98]
Craig Hall    
Rhys Darby     Darby and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords and Radiradirah
Cori Gonzalez-Macuer     [99]
Oscar Kightley   Kightley and Waititi also worked together on the television series Super City and Radiradirah
Mike Minogue    
Sam Neill      
Chris Hemsworth    
Tessa Thompson    

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Eagle vs Shark 54% (107 reviews)[100] 55 (25 reviews)[101]
Boy 87% (71 reviews)[102] 70 (19 reviews)[103]
What We Do in the Shadows 96% (183 reviews)[104] 76 (33 reviews)[105]
Hunt for the Wilderpeople 96% (198 reviews)[106] 81 (30 reviews)[107]
Thor: Ragnarok 93% (421 reviews)[108] 74 (51 reviews)[109]
Jojo Rabbit 80% (405 reviews)[110] 57 (55 reviews)[111]

Box office performanceEdit

Film Studio Release date Box office gross Budget Reference
New Zealand North America Worldwide
Eagle vs Shark Miramax 15 June 2007 (2007-06-15) $733,972 $221,846 $1,298,037 N/A [112]
Boy Transmission Films 25 March 2010 (2010-03-25) $6,750,042 $256,211 $8,621,535 N/A [113]
What We Do in the Shadows Madman Entertainment 19 January 2014 (2014-01-19) $2,001,400 $3,469,224 $6,263,224 $1.6 million [114]
Hunt for the Wilderpeople Madman Entertainment, Piki Films 22 January 2016 (2016-01-22) $8,628,197 $5,205,468 $22,698,454 $2.5 million [115]
Thor: Ragnarok Marvel Studios 3 November 2017 (2017-11-03) $4,486,969 $315,058,289 $853,977,126 $180 million [116]
Jojo Rabbit Fox Searchlight 18 October 2019 (2019-10-18) $3,141,977 $33,370,906 $90,335,025 $14 million [117]

AccoladesEdit

Totals[a]
Wins5
Nominations24
Note
  1. ^ Certain award groups do not simply award one winner. They recognize several different recipients, have runners-up, and have third place. Since this is a specific recognition and is different from losing an award, runner-up mentions are considered wins in this award tally. For simplification and to avoid errors, each award in this list has been presumed to have had a prior nomination.

Waititi has received various awards and nominations, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, and nominations for the Golden Globe Awards and Primetime Emmy Awards among others. In 2005, Waititi received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for the short film Two Cars, One Night (2004). In 2019, he released the comedy-drama film Jojo Rabbit, which was met with critical acclaim and earned him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and nominations for the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Golden Globe Award for Best Musical or Comedy Film and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing in a Feature Film. For the soundtrack of the film, he won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.

Since 2019, he has written and produced the television series What We Do in the Shadows, based on the 2014 film of the same name, for which he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best New Series.

In the 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours, Waititi was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to film.[118]

Awards and nominations received by Taika Waititi
Award Year Work Category Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards 2005 Two Cars, One Night Best Live Action Short Film Nominated [119]
2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Picture Nominated [120]
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
AACTA International Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Screenplay Won [121]
British Academy Film Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Adapted Screenplay Won [122]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Picture Nominated [123]
Best Comedy Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Awards 2021 What We Do in the Shadows Best Comedy Series Nominated [124]
Directors Guild of America Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Nominated [125]
2021 Coca-Cola's "The Letter" Outstanding Directing – Commercials Nominated [126]
Golden Globe Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [127]
Grammy Awards 2021 Jojo Rabbit Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Won [128]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2020 What We Do in the Shadows Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated [129][130]
The Mandalorian Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Nominated [131]
2021 What We Do in the Shadows Outstanding Producer of Episodic Comedy Television Nominated [132]
Satellite Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated [133]
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated [134]
Writers Guild of America Awards 2008 Flight of the Conchords Best Comedy Series Nominated [135]
Best New Series Nominated
2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Adapted Screenplay Won [136]
What We Do in the Shadows Best New Series Nominated

ReferencesEdit

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