Taika Waititi

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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 47)
Raukokore, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Other namesTaika Cohen
Alma materVictoria University of Wellington (BA)
Occupation
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
  • actor
  • comedian
Years active1999–present
Spouse
(m. 2011; sep. 2018)
(m. 2022)
Children2
Signature
Taika Waititi signature.svg

Taika David Cohen ONZM (born 16 August 1975), known professionally as Taika Waititi (/ˈtkə ˈwtiti/ TY-kə WY-tee-tee),[1] is a New Zealand filmmaker, actor, and comedian. He is a recipient of an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Grammy Award, and has received two nominations at the 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]

Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world on its annual list in 2022.

Waititi's 2003 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 in 2019. The series has been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. His most recent directing credits include the superhero films Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) as well as the black comedy film Jojo Rabbit (2019), the last 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 television, Waititi co-created and executive produces the dramedy series Reservation Dogs, and directs, executive produces, and stars in the comedy Our Flag Means Death. In addition to directing an episode of the series The Mandalorian, he also voiced the character IG-11, for which he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance.

Early life[edit]

Taika David Cohen[4][5][6] was born on 16 August 1975 in Raukokore in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand's North Island,[7] and grew up on both the East Coast and in the Aro Valley of Wellington.[8][9] His father was an artist of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui descent, whilst his mother, Robin Cohen,[10] was 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".[14][15] He was raised more connected to his Māori roots, in a household where Judaism was not "actively practis[ed]".[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]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

While a student at Victoria University of Wellington, Waititi was part of the five-member comedy 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 (2003) 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] Waititi co-wrote the film with Loren Horsley.[29] That year, Waititi wrote and directed one episode of the TV show Flight of the Conchords and directed another.[30]

In 2010, he acted in the New Zealand TV3 improv sketch comedy show Radiradirah, together with frequent collaborators Rhys Darby and Jemaine Clement.[31]

His second feature, Boy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010,[32] 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[33] and was successful at the local box office, eclipsing several records.[34] 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.[35] It reached #3, but became #1 on iTunes.[36] In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city.[37] That year, Waititi portrayed Thomas Kalmaku in the superhero film Green Lantern.[38]

2013–2019: Recognition[edit]

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.[39] It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.[40] Waititi and Clement played members of a group of vampires who live in an appropriately gothic house in modern-day Wellington.[41] A television adaptation of the film was commissioned in May 2018, with Waititi as an executive producer and director.[42] The series of the same name premiered on FX in March 2019;[43] its second season received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.[44]

Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[45] When it was released in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke Waititi's own record for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend.[46] 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,[47] which focused on gender and family. Those elements were passed over in favour of what became the final story.[48]

In 2017, Waititi won the award for New Zealander of the Year, but was unable to receive it in person due to work commitments.[49] That year, he directed his first major studio film, Marvel Studios's Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in October.[50][51] He also portrayed the alien Korg via motion capture in the film.[52] He had previously directed a short film series for Marvel called Team Thor, chronicling the lives of Thor and his roommate, Darryl Jacobson.[53] Thor: Ragnarok earned critical praise and was successful at the box office.[54][55] 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.[56][57]

Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con

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 a buffoonish version of Adolf Hitler as the boy's imaginary friend.[58] Waititi received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. He won the latter,[59][60] 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.[61] In 2021 he won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media as a producer of the Jojo Rabbit soundtrack.[62]

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.[63] The series premiered on 12 November 2019; Waititi also voices a droid bounty hunter named IG-11 in the series.[64] He directed the series' first-season finale, "Chapter 8: Redemption".[65] His voiceover work earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in 2020.[44]

2020–present: Recent career[edit]

In 2020, Waititi narrated a charity reading of James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.[66] He portrayed Ratcatcher in the DC superhero film The Suicide Squad, released in August 2021 to positive reviews.[67][68] Also in August, Waititi portrayed Antwan Hovachelik, the antagonist of the action comedy film Free Guy.[69] With Sterlin Harjo, Waititi co-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 and received positive reviews.[70][71]

Waititi at Toronto Film Festival.

Waititi executive produced, directed and starred as Blackbeard in the HBO Max comedy series Our Flag Means Death.[72] The first season was released in March 2022.[73] That same year, Time magazine placed him on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[74] Waititi performed as a voice actor in the 2022 animated film Lightyear as Mo Morrison.[citation needed] He wrote and directed the superhero film Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel to Thor: Ragnarok.[75] It released in July 2022.[76]

Waititi also directed a feature film adaptation of the documentary Next Goal Wins prior to directing Thor: Love and Thunder. The film, which had been delayed, is set to be released in April 2023 after Armie Hammer's scenes were re-shot with Will Arnett taking over the role.[77][78] He is set to direct a live-action film adaptation of Akira.[79][80] He is slated to 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.[81][82] 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.[83] He is set to executive produce and direct the Showtime limited series The Auteur.[84] He is slated to write and direct a film based on Flash Gordon for 20th Century Studios.[85] In November 2021, it was announced that Waititi would adapt The Incal into a feature film.[86]

Personal life[edit]

Waititi was in a relationship with New Zealand actress and writer Loren Horsley for ten years: she co-wrote and acted in his directorial debut, Eagle vs Shark.[29] Waititi married New Zealand film producer Chelsea Winstanley in 2011.[87] They have two daughters.[88] He and Winstanley separated in 2018.[89][90] Since 2021, Waititi has been in a relationship with British singer Rita Ora.[91][92] The two married in August 2022.[93]

Waititi incorporates his Māori and Indigenous heritage into his projects, such as by including "Indigenous attachments" and conducting a Welcome to Country ceremony during the start of filming on set in Australia.[94] 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.[75] Waititi's cousin Tweedie Waititi, whom he considers a sibling,[95] began producing and directing Māori language versions of Disney animated films due to Waititi, which she does alongside his former partner Winstanley.[96]

Filmography[edit]

Short films[edit]

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

Feature film[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2007 Eagle vs Shark Yes Yes No Co-written with Loren Horsley. Also casting director.
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 Adapted from the book 'Wild Pork and Watercress' by Barry Crump.
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Yes No No
2019 Jojo Rabbit Yes Yes Yes Adapted from the book 'Caging Skies' by Christine Leunens.
2022 Thor: Love and Thunder Yes Yes No Co-written with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.
2023 Next Goal Wins Yes Yes Yes Based on the 2014 British documentary of the same name.

Acting roles[edit]

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[97] The Captain Short film
2013 Coffee Town Cosmetology Instructor Uncredited
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 I
Free Guy Antwan
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain Max Kase
2022 Lightyear Mo Morrison Voice role
Thor: Love and Thunder Korg, Ninny the Nonnie [98]

Television[edit]

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 (US version) Yes No No 5 episodes
2018–2022 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–present The Mandalorian Yes No No Episode: "Chapter 8: Redemption"[65]
2021 RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under No No No 1 episode, guest star
2021 Reservation Dogs No Yes Yes Co-creator
2022 Our Flag Means Death Yes No Yes 1 episode
TBA Time Bandits Yes Yes Yes Upcoming miniseries

Acting roles[edit]

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[99] 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[100] Westley/The Man in Black
2021 What If...? Korg[101] Voice
Episode: "What If... Thor Were an Only Child?"
2022 Our Flag Means Death Blackbeard Main role; also executive producer[102]

Other works[edit]

Year Title Role
2016 Doctor Strange Wrote and directed the mid-credits scene (uncredited)
Moana Wrote the initial screenplay[47] (uncredited)

Music videos[edit]

Commercials[edit]

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.[103] The commercial went viral amassing over 19 million views on YouTube.[104] Waititi directed Tesco's "Borg," which features a comical Thor-esque character shopping in the supermarket;[105] he went on to direct Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok years later.

Frequent collaborators[edit]

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 Yes Yes 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 Yes Yes Yes Yes House also has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay, and had a minor role in Jojo Rabbit which was ultimately cut from the film.[109]
Stu Rutherford Yes Yes Yes Yes Co-invented a lighting system used on certain scenes in Thor: Ragnarok[110]
Cohen Holloway Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes [111]
Craig Hall Yes Yes
Rhys Darby Yes Yes Darby and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords, Our Flag Means Death and Radiradirah
Cori Gonzalez-Macuer Yes Yes [112]
Oscar Kightley Yes Kightley and Waititi also worked together on the television series Super City and Radiradirah
Mike Minogue Yes Yes
Sam Neill Yes Yes Yes
Jonathan Brugh Yes Yes

Accolades[edit]

Totals[a]
Wins6
Nominations28
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 Grammy 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 wrote and directed 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.[113]

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 [114]
2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Picture Nominated [115]
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
AACTA International Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Screenplay Won [116]
British Academy Film Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Adapted Screenplay Won [117]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Picture Nominated [118]
Best Comedy Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Awards 2021 What We Do in the Shadows Best Comedy Series Nominated [119]
2022 Reservation Dogs Best Comedy Series Nominated [120]
What We Do in the Shadows Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Nominated [121]
2021 Coca-Cola's "The Letter" Outstanding Directing – Commercials Nominated [122]
Golden Globe Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [123]
Grammy Awards 2021 Jojo Rabbit Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Won [124]
Independent Spirit Awards 2022 Reservation Dogs Best New Scripted Series Won [125]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2020 What We Do in the Shadows Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated [126]
The Mandalorian Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance Nominated
2022 What We Do in the Shadows Outstanding Comedy Series Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Nominated [127]
2021 What We Do in the Shadows Outstanding Producer of Episodic Comedy Television Nominated [128]
Satellite Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated [129]
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards 2020 Jojo Rabbit Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated [130]
Writers Guild of America Awards 2008 Flight of the Conchords Best Comedy Series Nominated [131]
Best New Series Nominated
2020 Jojo Rabbit Best Adapted Screenplay Won [132]
What We Do in the Shadows Best New Series Nominated
2022 Reservation Dogs Best New Series Nominated [133]
Reservation Dogs (episode: "F*ckin' Rez Dogs") Best Comedy Episode Nominated

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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