Taika Waititi knows you won't remember him, and he's fine with that

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"The Director's Chair" is a series highlighting those at the helm of the biggest projects in TV and movies.

Despite being one of the funniest and most creative storytellers working in Hollywood today, Taika Waititi has no illusions that his work will be remembered once he leaves this earth.

Personally, it's hard to imagine it being forgotten.

His writing and directing talents helped aid his "Thor" movies in becoming box-office hits during Marvel's prime. He earned a best screenplay Oscar by making fun of Hitler in 2019's "Jojo Rabbit." His take on an uptight vampire in "What We Do in the Shadows" and portrayal of the feared pirate Blackbeard in Max's "Our Flag Means Death" are so distinctly original, they will likely be imitated for generations to come.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed him, he told Business Insider over Zoom on Monday.

An admitted control freak most of his life, Waititi, 48, now sees all art as disposable — they're things that will give us joy and pleasure now, but be forgotten soon after viewing.

This outlook isn't stopping him from working, though. Instead, he says this perspective is helping him enjoy life more, and inviting a more collaborative spirit to his moviemaking.

It's a mindset that was forged during the four years he spent getting his latest movie, "Next Goal Wins," onto the big screen.

David Fane holding white board, Michael Fassbender next to it
(L-R) David Fane and Michael Fassbender in "Next Goal Wins."Hilary Bronwyne Gayle/Searchlight Pictures

"Next Goal Wins" is based on the 2014 documentary of the same name, which followed the American Somoa team as it tried to qualify for the FIFA World Cup under the guidance of new coach Thomas Rongen — and shed its reputation as the worst soccer team in the world.

Waititi cast Michael Fassbender as Rongen and put many of his own insecurities and thoughts into the script to create a heartwarming look at culture and family.

However, due to the pandemic and the recent SAG-AFTRA strike, the movie has been sitting on the shelf for years (Searchlight finally released the movie in theaters on Friday).

The halts gave Waititi something he hadn't had in decades: time. Coming out of it refreshed, he didn't just make improvements to "Next Goal Wins" — now, he no longer cares if you agree with his creative decisions.

Business Insider spoke with Waititi over Zoom about his new outlook on his career, what he plans to make next, the latest on his "Star Wars" movie, and if he'll return to the "Thor" franchise.

The word that comes to mind when seeing this movie is "patience." Michael Fassbender's character has to be patient while trying to make the worst soccer team in the world respectable, but also, you had to be patient. You have literally waited years to get this movie in front of audiences. Has it been hard to wait?

You know, not really, because I've always had about 45 other things going on.

You are a busy man. 

I would just move on. The frustrating thing is, I'd keep forgetting that the film was in existence. People would ask, "Is the film out yet?" and I'd be like, "What film? Oh, I made a film about football!"

It's been four years since we've shot it. But you know, 2020 came around and nobody left their house for a year so I couldn't edit any of it.

That turned out to be a blessing because seeing the film after a year I was like, "Oh, I know what's wrong with this movie, a completely different person made this and I know how to fix it."

I did some reshoots, completely finished the film, and then everyone went on strike. So now we're here. But here's what I really believe, things are delayed when they need to be and patience is a very important thing.

I wrote "Jojo Rabbit" in 2011 and I didn't shoot it until 2018 and it came out when everyone wanted to be a Nazi again. So these things come out when they should come out.

Yeah, you have this talent for creating timely works. People always want to talk about Nazis and they always want to talk about soccer. 

Exactly. And when we first wrote "What We Do in the Shadows," vampires were so cool. When we finally released it, vampires were the least cool thing and that was perfect for the film.

Taika Waititi next to a camera
Taika Waititi on the set of "Next Goal Wins."Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Searchlight Pictures

But you bring up having this huge amount of time to sit back and look at the movie during post-production. Is there such a thing as a filmmaker having too much time with their movie?

I always try to have a lot of time. "Shadows" was 14 months of editing. And we needed that to feel we got it right. I always edit and then take time off. I edit, take a month off, come back to it.

That's rare.

Yeah. It's a shame that we constantly have to rush the post-production process because you spend years writing a thing and then filming it and then you have just 10 weeks in post. What? That's crazy. So I welcome having time.

With that long break, was there a certain element of the story in "Next Goal Wins" that benefited —


[Laughs.] Was there something that formed much later?

For sure. The little thing like the priest presenting the film, that came right at the end. It was an idea of like, maybe it should be presented as a fable. 'Cause, yes, it's a true story, but I've taken a lot of it and turned it into my own thing.

I mean, in the Bible, they took real-life things that happened and then they added, you know, magic.

I like how you compare your work to, I don't know, the Bible.

I'm just like the guy who wrote the Bible, bro.

Taika Waititi dressed as priest in Next Goal Wins
Taika Waititi as a priest in "Next Goal Wins."Searchlight Pictures

So was the priest always in the story?

The priest was hardly in there but once I took the role, that no one else could play —

Oh, of course.

It made the role a lot bigger.

These past four years, have you changed as a filmmaker?

All of this, the pandemic and the strike, has just made me lazier. It's made me not want to work ever again. So if I give up it's the fault of the strike.

I mean, I had time off for the first time in 20 years and I was like, "Oh, this is what retirement might feel like, I love this!"

Has any form of writer's block come from this?

No. I've just realized there's more to life than any kind of job anywhere in the world.

But also, the experience of the last four years and this film has taught me really to just chill and stop trying to rush things and control everything — take some time to just breathe and let things happen and be happy.

Happiness is the one thing that is eluding a lot of us and I have spent a lot of my career and my life being very particular about certain things and not letting other people touch certain things. I had to be in control of everything.

Making this film, I realized it's way easier if you let everyone collectively work as a team.

Rita Ora looking up to Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi with wife Rita Ora at the premiere of "Next Goal Wins."Anna Webber/Getty

So will you be a different filmmaker going forward?

It will change from project to project. I'm getting looser and more relaxed as time goes on.

Now, some might make this sound like I care less. I think I still care, but I just care less about the control.

Listen, none of us are going to be remembered in 50 years. You don't remember the names of your great-great-grandparents. I don't. How the hell are we to expect to be remembered? No one knows the name of the guy who made "Casablanca."

Stop saying that! [Editor's note: Waititi said this previously in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in May.]

I'm gonna keep saying it! No one can tell me what his name is.

So I just want to chill, make the art now, and if people like it, great, if not, who cares? It's not important. It's just important to make people happy and give people some hope in the moment now.

Michael Curtiz.

Oh, in my face!

Don't ask me if I googled that just now. So, will "Klara and the Sun" be the next thing you direct?

That's the plan. Yeah. I'm writing that and going to try to shoot that next year.

So what you just spoke about, how will that influence that project?

What it will influence, hopefully, is the post-production. Being able to take that time with the story. Because I always build in time for reshoots. I think it's vital. I never feel you can get it right that first time so it's always a lifesaver when you get to go back six to eight months later for a week and get all those tiny little bits that really make the story perfect. And then hopefully I have a lot of time to edit.

Was this what you said specifically to Sony? That if you sign on, you want a good chunk of time for the edit.


taika waititi star wars movie
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy speaking about Taika Waititi's "Star Wars" project at the 2020 Disney Investor Day.Disney

With "Klara" next, does that mean your "Star Wars" movie is something that's still marinating in your mind?

It's still marinating. I've been writing it. I've written some drafts that I'll come back to. But I want to get a couple of more films in first.

There have been rumors online that another "Thor" movie is being developed and you're not involved, is that accurate?

I wouldn't know if that's accurate, I know that I won't be involved. I'm going to concentrate on these other films that I've signed on for. "The Incal," "Klara," and hopefully do the "Star Wars" one. So that's six, seven years gone. I'd imagine another "Thor" would be a lot sooner than that. But I love Marvel, I love working with them. I love Chris.

Is it a nice way to move on? If they want to do another "Thor" that's cool.

Oh, I would never feel like they are cheating on me. [Laughs.]

We're in an open relationship and it's like, if they want to see other people I'm happy for that. I'd still get back into bed with them one day.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Read the original article on Insider