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Taika David Waititi (/ˈtkə wˈtti/;[1] born 16 August 1975), also known as Taika Cohen, is a New Zealand film director, writer, actor, painter and comedian.

Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi at Sundance 2015.jpg
Taika Waititi speaking at 2015 Sundance Film Festival
Born Taika David Waititi
(1975-08-16) 16 August 1975 (age 41)
Wellington, New Zealand
Alma mater Victoria University of Wellington
Occupation Film director, screenwriter and comedian
Years active 1999 - present
Known for Eagle vs Shark, Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Spouse(s) Chelsea Winstanley

He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night. His feature films Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople became the top grossing New Zealand films.[2][3] His horror comedy film What We Do in the Shadows also received critical acclaim. Waititi's first major Hollywood film, Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok, is scheduled for release on November 3, 2017.



Waititi hails from the Raukokore area of the East Coast region of the North Island of New Zealand, and grew up there and in Wellington,[4] going to Onslow College in his teen years.[5] His father is Māori of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and his mother is of Russian Jewish heritage.[6][7] Waititi has used his mother's surname, "Cohen", for some of his work in film and writing.[8]


Comedy and acting workEdit

While a drama student at Victoria University of Wellington, Waititi was part of the five-member ensemble, So You're a Man, which toured New Zealand and Australia with some success.

He was one half of the comedy duo The Humourbeasts alongside Jemaine Clement – recipients of New Zealand's highest comedy accolade, the Billy T Award, in 1999.

In the same period Waititi began acting on screen. He won a local film award for his work as one of the students in successful low-budget Dunedin film Scarfies, and had smaller roles in road movie Snakeskin and TV series The Strip.

After a number of years where he concentrated on directing, Waititi played Thomas Kalmaku in 2011 superhero film Green Lantern,[9] and took large roles in two of his own films: 2010's Boy, and 2013's What We Do in the Shadows, which he co-directed and co-wrote with Jemaine Clement.

He also plays Korg via motion capture in his film Thor: Ragnarok.[10]


Among a variety of artistic interests, Waititi began making comical short films for New Zealand's annual 48-hour film contest. In 2005 his short film Two Cars, One Night earned him an Academy Award nomination. At the awards ceremony, he famously feigned falling asleep as the nominations were being read out.[4]

His first feature film, oddball romantic comedy Eagle vs Shark, was released in U.S. theatres for limited distribution in 2007. The film stars Waititi's then real-life partner, Loren Horsley, as Lily. The same year, Waititi wrote and directed one episode of the TV show Flight of the Conchords and was director of another.

His second feature, Boy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010,[11][12] and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.[13] 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[14] and was successful at the local box office, eclipsing several records.[15] After the success of Boy, Waititi hoped that the film's signature track "Poi E" would get to number one (for the second time) on the New Zealand charts. The song reached number three, but got to number one on iTunes.[16]

In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city.[17]

In 2013, Waititi co-wrote and co-directed vampire comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with friend and fellow comedian Jemaine Clement.[18] The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.[19] Waititi and Clement played members of a group of vampires who live in modern-day Wellington.

Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[20] When it was released back in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke records for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend.[21] Based on a book by the late Barry Crump, the film centres around a young boy 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,[22] which focused on gender and family. Those elements were passed over in favour of what would become the finalized story.

In 2017, Waititi won the award for New Zealander of the Year, but was unable to receive it in person due to work commitments. [23]

Waititi directed his first major Hollywood film, Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok, is scheduled for release on November 3, 2017.[24][25]

Waititi will be collaborating with Mark Gustafson to direct the upcoming stop-motion animated film, Bubbles, which is about the life of Michael Jackson seen in the perspective of his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles.[26]



Year Film Credited as
Director Producer Screenwriter Actor Notes
1999 Scarfies No No No Yes
2002 John and Pogo Yes No Yes No Short film
2003 Two Cars, One Night Yes No Yes No Short film
2004 Tama Tu Yes No Yes No Short film
2005 What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews with some Vampires Yes No Yes Yes Short film, the basis for the later Feature Film Mockumentary
2007 Eagle vs Shark Yes No Yes Yes
2010 Boy Yes No Yes Yes Role: Alamein
2011 Green Lantern No No No Yes Role: Thomas Kalmaku
2014 What We Do in the Shadows Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Viago
2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Minister
2016 Doctor Strange No No No No Uncredited, directed mid-credits scene.[27]
2016 Moana No No Yes No Initial screenwriter, wrote initial screenplay
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Yes No No Yes Role: Korg[28]
2019 Bubbles Yes No No No In Development [29]


Year Program Episode(s) Credit(s)
2002 The Strip Season 1, 13 Episodes Role: Mostin
2003 Revelations Season 1, Episode 14 Role: Ali
2003 Freaky Season 1, Episode 2 Role: Cleaner
2007-09 Flight of the Conchords "Drive By", "New Zealand Town" Director, writer
2009 The Jacquie Brown Diaries Season 2, Episode 7 Role: Friendly Gypsy
2010 Radiradirah Season 1 Various Sketch Comedy Roles
2011 Super City Season 1 Director
2012 The Inbetweeners (U.S. TV series) Season 1, 5 Episodes Director
2015 Brown Eye Season 1 Writer, Executive Producer
2017 Paranormal Event Response Unit In Development Co-Creator

Frequent collaborations
Actor Eagle vs Shark (2007) Boy (2010) What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) Moana (2016) Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Jermaine Clement      
Rachel House          
Stu Rutherford      
Cohen Holloway        
Craig Hall    
Rhys Darby    
Cori Gonzalez-Macuer    
Oscar Kightley    
Mike Minogue    

Personal lifeEdit

In May 2012, Waititi's wife, Chelsea Winstanley, gave birth to their first daughter, Te Hinekāhu.[30][31]


  1. ^ Taika Waititi Interview. Campus MovieFest Luminaries. May 2, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2017 – via YouTube. 
  2. ^ Churchouse, Nick (24 April 2010). "Home Boy hit helps keep local cameras rolling". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "Boy Now Top Grossing NZ Film Of All Time". 20 May 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  4. ^ a b "Taika Waititi". NZ On Screen.
  5. ^ Catherall, Sarah (10 December 2014). "My secret Wellington: Taika Waititi". Fairfax New Zealand. 
  6. ^ Tom Hunt (2012-02-07). "Taika Waititi reveals childhood passions". The Dominion Post. 
  7. ^ Elizabeth- cawobeth (2012-03-03). "'Boy' movie review, trailer: A charming New Zealand family movie". Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  8. ^ Nate Bloom (10 July 2007). "Interfaith Celebrities: Kyra Sedgwick, Baseball's Braun-y Interfaith Rookie and a Jewish Maori director". Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  9. ^ Borys Kit (15 March 2010). "Two kiwi actors join 'Green Lantern'". Reuters. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  10. ^ Lawrence, Derek. "Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi to portray Korg in film". Entertainment Weekly. 
  11. ^ "Release Dates for Boy". Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  12. ^ RT Staff (2 December 2009). "2010 Sundance Film Festival Lineup Announced". Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  13. ^ "Awards for Boy (2010)". Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  14. ^ Calder, Peter (25 March 2010). "Boy". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  15. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (21 May 2010). "Waititi's Boy sets new record for New Zealand film". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  16. ^ "Interview with Taika Waititi". Marcus Lush. Auckland. 22 March 2010. ZM. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  17. ^ "Super City". TV3. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  18. ^ "mock documentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS". 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "Sundance debut for Kiwi vampire spoof". 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Sharf, Zack (April 4, 2016). "Sundance Crowdpleaser ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ Makes Box Office History in New Zealand". Retrieved January 6, 2017. 
  22. ^ "Taika Waititi behind Disney script 'Moana'". The New Zealand Herald. October 21, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  23. ^ Barton, Nicky. "2017 NEW ZEALANDER OF THE YEAR AWARDS WINNERS UPDATE". New Zealander of the Year Awards. Kiwibank. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  24. ^ Kit, Borys (October 2, 2015). "'Thor 3' Finds Its Director". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2015. 
  25. ^ Frater, Patrick (October 21, 2015). "Marvel’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and Fox’s ‘Alien’ To Shoot in Australia". Variety. Archived from the original on October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Taika Waititi to Co-Direct Michael Jackson Movie 'Bubbles'". The Hollywood Reporter. February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017. 
  27. ^ Gonzalzes, Umberto (October 28, 2016). "‘Thor Ragnarok’ Director Taika Waititi Behind ‘Doctor Strange’ Mid-Credit Scene". The Wrap. Retrieved January 6, 2017. 
  28. ^ Lawrence, Derek (April 18, 2017). "Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi to portray Korg in film". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on April 18, 2017. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  29. ^ Lodderhouse, Diana (February 11, 2017). "Taika Waititi & Mark Gustafson To Direct Michael Jackson Chimp Pic ‘Bubbles’ – Berlin". Deadline. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2017. 
  30. ^ Twitter
  31. ^ Powley, Kathryn (3 June 2012). "Girl, not Boy, for director dad". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 

External linksEdit