Why the whole world wants Taika


In his 30s, he was sleeping on couches. By his 40s, he’d directed a Kiwi classic, taken a Marvel movie to billion-dollar success, and won an Oscar. Meet Taika Waititi, king of the oddball – and one of New Zealand’s most original creative exports.


The good news? Taika Waititi is still alive. I wasn’t sure. The screen we were speaking through jolted savagely a few minutes ago, with a cacophonous bang and a confused yelp, then radio silence. Now the Kiwi ­ filmmaker is back, grinning like a loon: “I just broke the f—ing table, bro!”

Come again? “I just smashed this f—ing table and glass flew everywhere. It’s one of those old annoying colonial tables. It goes like this – see that?” Waititi says, holding up a folding furniture leg. “I hit the mechanism and it wasn’t locked. Anyway …”

I’m glad he’s fine. The stuff he’s been saying from his London hotel room could incur biblical wrath. We’re talking about his latest project, Next Goal Wins, a movie about the American Samoa soccer team’s quest to score a solitary goal, 10 years after suffering the worst loss in the game’s international history – a 31-0 ­ignominy to Australia – but our chat strays into ­spirituality, then faith, then religion.

“I don’t personally believe in a big guy sitting on a cloud judging everyone, but that’s just me,” Waititi says, deadpan. “Because I’m a grown-up.”

This is the way his interview answers often unfold. Waititi addresses your topic – dogma turns good people bad, he says, yet belief itself is worth lauding – but bookends every response with a conspiratorial nudge, wink, joke or poke. “Regardless of whether it’s some guy living on a cloud, or some other deity that you’ve made up – and they’re all made up – the message across the board is the same, and it’s important: Be a nice person, and live a good life. And just don’t be an arsehole!”

Not being an arsehole seems to have served Waititi, 48, well…

CLICK HERE for the full story from Good Weekend magazine on Saturday, December 1, 2023