Waititi at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con promoting Thor: Love and Thunder
Taika David Cohen
16 August 1975
Raukokore, New Zealand
|Alma mater||Victoria University of Wellington|
What We Do in the Shadows
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika David Cohen / / (listen), is a New Zealand film and television director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and comedian. He is the recipient of an Academy Award as well as two further nominations. He has also received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. His feature films Boy (2010) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) have each been the top-grossing New Zealand film, with the latter still holding that title as of April 2020.(born 16 August 1975), known professionally as Taika Waititi
Waititi 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 (2019–present). The series has been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. His most recent directing credits include the superhero film Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and the black comedy film Jojo Rabbit (2019), the latter of which he also wrote and starred in as Adolf Hitler. Jojo Rabbit was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the latter. In addition to directing an episode of the web television series The Mandalorian (2019–present), Waititi also voices the character IG-11, garnering a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance nomination for his work.
Taika David Cohen was born in Raukokore in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand's North Island, and grew up in both the East Coast and the Aro Valley of Wellington. His father was a Māori farmer and artist of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, whilst his mother, Robin, is a schoolteacher of European descent. Waititi's maternal grandfather is of Russian Jewish heritage and his maternal grandmother is of Irish heritage. He describes himself as a "Polynesian Jew".
Waititi's parents split up when he was around five, and he was raised primarily by his mother. He attended Onslow College for secondary school. He studied theatre at Victoria University of Wellington and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1997. He originally used his mother's surname, Cohen, for his work in film and writing, while his father's surname, Waititi, was used for his visual arts endeavors. He continued to use the name Waititi professionally following the success of his first short film.
While a student at Victoria University, Waititi was part of the five-member ensemble So You're a Man, which toured New Zealand and Australia with some success. 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. 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. 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, 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 and was successful at the local box office, eclipsing several records. 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 ultimately reached number three on the charts, but managed to become number one on iTunes. In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city. That same year, Waititi portrayed Thomas Kalmaku in the superhero film Green Lantern.
2013–2017: What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok
In 2013, Waititi co-wrote and co-directed vampire comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with friend and fellow comedian Jemaine Clement. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. Waititi and Clement played members of a group of vampires who live in an appropriately gothic house in modern-day Wellington. A television adaptation of the film was commissioned in May 2019, with Waititi on board as an executive producer and director. The series of the same name premiered on FX in March 2019. The series' second season received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. When it was released in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke Waititi's own record for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend. Based on a book by 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, which focused on gender and family. Those elements were passed over in favour of what would become the finalised 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. That same year, Waititi directed his first major film, Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in October. He also portrayed Korg, a Kronan, via motion capture in the film. He had previously directed two shorts for Marvel called "Team Thor", which dealt with Thor's living in Australia with his roommate, Darryl Jacobson. Waititi was later consulted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely regarding Thor's storylines for Avengers: Infinity War.
2018–present: Jojo Rabbit and The Mandalorian
Waititi was set to collaborate with Mark Gustafson to direct the upcoming stop-motion animated film Bubbles, which was about the life of Michael Jackson seen from the perspective of his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. However, Waititi left the project in 2019 due to a heavy work schedule. That same year, 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 the family home. Waititi plays Adolf Hitler as the boy's imaginary friend. For his work on the film, Waititi received two Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the latter. This made him the first person of Maori descent to win an Academy Award in a screenplay category, as well as the first indigenous person to be nominated and to win Best Adapted Screenplay.
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. The series premiered on 12 November 2019; Waititi also voices a droid bounty hunter named IG-11 in the series. He directed the first season finale episode of The Mandalorian, "Chapter 8: Redemption". His voiceover work on the series earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in 2020.
Waititi was reportedly set to direct a new live-action film version of Akira as well as co-write a sequel to What We Do in the Shadows, titled We're Wolves. In July 2019, it was reported that Waititi will write and direct Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel to Ragnarok, causing Akira to be delayed indefinitely. Waititi is also set to direct a feature film adaptation of Next Goal Wins; he will co-write the script with Iain Morris, while Garrett Basch, Jonathan Cavendish, Andy Serkis, Mike Brett and Steve Jamison will serve as producers.
As of March 2020, Waititi is set to write, direct and executive produce two animated series for Netflix, one based on Roald Dahl's children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and another focused on the novel's Oompa Loompa characters. In May 2020, it was announced that Waititi is set to direct and co-write (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) an upcoming live-action Star Wars film. He is also working on a film version of the 2018 novel by Tina Makereti, The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, which has its title character based on the life of Hemi Pomara.
In May 2012, Waititi's wife, Chelsea Winstanley, who is also of Māori descent, gave birth to their first daughter. Their second daughter was born in August 2015. It was reported in March 2020 that Waititi and Winstanley had been separated for two years.
|2007||Eagle vs Shark||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|
|2019||Jojo Rabbit||Yes||Yes||Yes||Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay|
BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture
|TBA||Next Goal Wins||Yes||Yes||Yes||Post-production;|
Co-written with Iain Morris
|2002||John and Pogo||Yes||Yes||No|
|2004||Two Cars, One Night||Yes||Yes||No||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film|
|What We Do in the Shadows:
Interviews with Some Vampires
|2017||Team Thor: Part 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|A New Way Home||Max||Short film|
|2005||What We Do in the Shadows:
Interviews with Some Vampires
|2007||Eagle vs Shark||Gordon|
|2011||Green Lantern||Thomas Kalmaku|
|2013||The Captain||The Captain||Short film|
|2014||What We Do in the Shadows||Viago|
|2016||Hunt for the Wilderpeople||Minister|
|2018||Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss||Holy Storsh|
|Jojo Rabbit||Adolf Hitler|
|2021||The Suicide Squad||TBA||Post-production|
|2016||Doctor Strange||Wrote and directed the mid-credits scene (uncredited)|
|Moana||Wrote the initial screenplay (uncredited)|
|2018||The Breaker Upperers||Executive producer|
|2007–2009||Flight of the Conchords||Yes||Yes||No||4 episodes|
|2011||Super City||Yes||No||No||6 episodes|
|2012||The Inbetweeners||Yes||No||No||5 episodes|
|2019–present||What We Do in the Shadows||Yes||No||Yes||3 episodes|
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series (2020)
|2019||The Mandalorian||Yes||No||No||Episode: "Chapter 8: Redemption"|
|2002||The Strip||Mostin||13 Episodes|
|2003||Revelations||Ali||Episode: "Mended Sole"|
|Freaky||Cleaner||Episode: "Fridge, Cleaner & Sister"|
|2009||The Jaquie Brown Diaries||Friendly Gypsy||Episode: "Brownward Spiral"|
|2019||What We Do in the Shadows||Viago||Episode: "The Trial"|
|The Mandalorian||IG-11||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||Upcoming|
- "Ladies of the World", Flight of the Conchords (2007)
- "Mutha'uckas", Flight of the Conchords (2007)
- "Leggy Blonde", Flight of the Conchords (2007)
- "Shanks’ Pony", Age Pryor (2007)
- "Bright Grey", The Phoenix Foundation (2007)
- "My Imminent Demise", Luke Buda (2008)
- "40 Years", The Phoenix Foundation (2009)
- "World Gone Sour (The Lost Kids)", Method Man (2011)
- "Main Attraction", Jeremy Renner (2019)
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. The commercial went viral amassing over 19 million views on YouTube. Waititi directed Tesco's "Borg," which features a comical Thor-esque character shopping in the supermarket; notably, he went on to direct Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok years later.
- "Moussaka Rap", Pot Noodle (2008)
- "I Wish (That Girls Were More Like Pot Noodles)", Pot Noodle (2008)
- "Back with no Appetite", Pot Noodle (2008)
- "World Gone Sour (The Lost Kids)", Sour Patch Kids (2011)
- "Simply The Best", Cadbury Dairy Milk (2011)
- "Gold", Wispa (2011)
- "Superbowl Brotherhood of Man", NBC (2012)
- "Pure", Steinlager (2012)
- "New Girl", Old Navy (2012)
- "Why Choose?", Old Navy (2012)
- "Australia Day", Lambnesia (2013)
- "State Of The -Ation", Samsung (2013)
- "MIDWULS", Optimum Cable (2013)
- "Borg" Tesco (2013)
- "Pierce Brosnan", Sky Ireland (2013)
- "Blazed", New Zealand Transport Agency (2013)
- "#HELLOBEER", Carlton (2013)
- "The Kids Party", Nimble (2014)
- "The Gas Bill", Nimble (2014)
- "The Phone Bill", Nimble (2014)
- "Laura", Stop Before You Start (2014)
- "Toa", Stop Before You Start (2014)
- "Tori", Stop Before You Start (2014)
- "Jackson", Stop Before You Start (2014)
- "Destiny", Stop Before You Start (2014)
- "The Most Epic Safety Video Ever", Air New Zealand (2014)
- "Watch It Over and Over", Nova Energy (2014)
- "Tinnyvision", New Zealand Transport Agency (2015)
- "Choose Your Trebor - Confessions", Trebor Mints (2015)
- "Broadband Made Simple", 2degrees (2015)
- "Taika's Appeal", New Zealand Human Rights Commission (2017)
|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 (2021)||Notes|
|Jemaine Clement||Clement and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords, Radiradirah and Wellington Paranormal. Clement also has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay.|
|Rachel House||House also has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay.|
|Stu Rutherford||Co-invented a lighting system used on certain scenes in Thor: Ragnarok|
|Rhys Darby||Darby and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords and Radiradirah|
|Oscar Kightley||Kightley and Waititi also worked together on the television series Super City and Radiradirah|
|Eagle vs Shark||54% (107 reviews)||55 (25 reviews)|
|Boy||87% (71 reviews)||70 (19 reviews)|
|What We Do in the Shadows||96% (183 reviews)||76 (33 reviews)|
|Hunt for the Wilderpeople||96% (198 reviews)||81 (30 reviews)|
|Thor: Ragnarok||93% (421 reviews)||74 (51 reviews)|
|Jojo Rabbit||80% (405 reviews)||57 (55 reviews)|
Box office performance
|Film||Studio||Release date||Box office gross||Budget||Reference|
|New Zealand||North America||Worldwide|
|Eagle vs Shark||Miramax||15 June 2007||$733,972||$221,846||$1,298,037||N/A|||
|Boy||Transmission Films||25 March 2010||$6,750,042||$256,211||$8,621,535||N/A|||
|What We Do in the Shadows||Madman Entertainment Two Canoes||19 January 2014||$2,001,400||$3,469,224||$6,263,224||$1.6 million|||
|Hunt for the Wilderpeople||Madman Entertainment Piki Films||22 January 2016||$8,628,197||$5,205,468||$22,698,454||$2.5 million|||
|Thor: Ragnarok||Marvel Studios||3 November 2017||$4,486,969||$315,058,289||$853,977,126||$180 million|||
|Jojo Rabbit||Fox Searchlight||18 October 2019||$3,141,977||$30,258,159||$77,510,752||$14 million|||
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"Cohen" is the name on his birth certificate and "Waititi" is his father's surname, but his current choice of surname doesn't signal a shift in identity.
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[Cohen] is still my name. It's actually the name on my passport and driver's licence and everything.
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His dad and I always had agreed that when Taika was, before he was born, that if he arrived looking like a Pākehā we’d name him after my dad and his Māori grandfather would–his name would be second, and if he arrived as a Māori then we would reverse it and he, of course, we know what he looks like, so he’s Taika David.
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