Taika Waititi can’t say much about his forthcoming “Star Wars” film, but he does have a joke that might pique his fans’ sense of humor.
When asked if his addition to the popular franchise would still show fans the same “Star Wars” they know and love, the “Thor: love and thunder” director animatedly told Variety on the red carpet of his “Next Goal Wins” premiere, “It will be … dramatic pause… a Taika Waititi film.”
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“It’s gonna piss people off,” he added with a laugh.
In the meantime, the Hollywood multihyphenate is celebrating the release of his latest film, a soccer flick focused on the true story of an American Samoa team that infamously lost a FIFA match 31-0. Waititi came to the movie after wrapping up his work on the 2022 “Thor” film and “JoJo Rabbit,” and said he wanted to do something that focused on his heritage and culture.
“The beauty of this movie is the Asian-Pacific Islanders,” Waititi said. “I needed to get back home. I’d just been around Europeans for too long and I just needed to get back to the pacific and tell a story about us. More than the sport aspect, it’s about the team that you create as family.”
The representation was loudly on-display as the carpet kicked off with a lively special performance of the haka dance, a Maori ceremonial practice. Also in attendance for the premiere was castmembers Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Rhys Darby, Kaimana, and Oscar Kightley, as well as Jaiyah Saelua, who serves as the inspiration behind the film.
Saelua made history as the first transgender person to participate in a FIFA tournament as a member of the American Samoa men’s national soccer team and played an integral part in the team’s 2014 win vs. Tonga in a World Cup qualifying match.
“Taika’s ability to take the true essence of my team and of my culture and my people and relay that in his own unique way, make it his version – I think only he can do that in Hollywood because he’s a Pacific Islander and because it’s a Pacific story. He was able to cast more than 90% Pacific Islanders and even the crew itself was Pacific Islander,” Saelua shared.
But the story means more for the trans-rights pioneering activist. Along with the wit and comedy of Taika’s writing, Saelua wants fans to gain a true understanding of “my team’s passion for the game or the fact that we played because we love the sport.” But for them, “it’s not always up winning, it’s about representing your country,” she said.
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