Taika Waititi

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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 (1 child)

Taika David Waititi (born 16 August 1975), also known as Taika Cohen, is a New Zealand film director, writer, actor, painter and comedian.

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.[1][2] His horror comedy film What We Do in the Shadows also received critical acclaim.


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.[3] His father is Māori of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and his mother is of Russian Jewish heritage.[4][5] Waititi has used his mother's surname, "Cohen", for some of his work in film and writing.[6]


Comedy and acting work[edit]

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,[7] 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.


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.[3]

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,[8][9] and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.[10] 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[11] and was successful at the local box office, eclipsing several records.[12] 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.[13]

In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city.[14]

In 2013, Waititi co-wrote and co-directed vampire comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with friend and fellow comedian Jemaine Clement.[15] The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.[16] 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. When it was released back in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke records for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend. 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 is directing his first major Hollywood film, Thor: Ragnarok, for Marvel Studios scheduled for a 2017 release.[17][18]



Year Film Credited as
Director Producer Screenwriter Actor Notes
1999 Scarfies No No No Yes
2003 Two Cars, One Night Yes No Yes No Short film
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 Moana No No Yes No Post-production
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Yes No No No Filming


Year Program Episode(s) Credit(s)
2007-09 Flight of the Conchords "Drive By", "New Zealand Town" Director, writer
2011 Super City Season 1 Director
2012 The Inbetweeners (U.S. TV series) Season 1, 5 Episodes Director

Personal life[edit]

In May 2012, Waititi's wife, Chelsea Winstanley, gave birth to their first daughter, Te Hinekāhu.[19][20]


  1. ^ Churchouse, Nick (24 April 2010). "Home Boy hit helps keep local cameras rolling". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Boy Now Top Grossing NZ Film Of All Time". Voxy.co.nz. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  3. ^ a b "Taika Waititi". NZ On Screen.
  4. ^ Tom Hunt (2012-02-07). "Taika Waititi reveals childhood passions". The Dominion Post. 
  5. ^ Elizabeth- cawobeth (2012-03-03). "'Boy' movie review, trailer: A charming New Zealand family movie". newjerseynewsroom.com. Retrieved 2012-06-06. 
  6. ^ Nate Bloom (10 July 2007). "Interfaith Celebrities: Kyra Sedgwick, Baseball's Braun-y Interfaith Rookie and a Jewish Maori director". InterfaithFamily.com. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  7. ^ Borys Kit (15 March 2010). "Two kiwi actors join 'Green Lantern'". Reuters. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Release Dates for Boy". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  9. ^ RT Staff (2 December 2009). "2010 Sundance Film Festival Lineup Announced". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  10. ^ "Awards for Boy (2010)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  11. ^ Calder, Peter (25 March 2010). "Boy". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (21 May 2010). "Waititi's Boy sets new record for New Zealand film". Screen Daily. screendaily.com. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  13. ^ "Interview with Taika Waititi". Marcus Lush. 22 March 2010. ZM. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  14. ^ "Super City". TV3. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  15. ^ "mock documentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS". 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "Sundance debut for Kiwi vampire spoof". 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Twitter
  20. ^ Powley, Kathryn (3 June 2012). "Girl, not Boy, for director dad". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 5 February 2015. 

External links[edit]