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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Taika Waititi
Waititi at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con
Born
Taika David Cohen

(1975-08-16) 16 August 1975 (age 48)
Wellington, New Zealand
Other namesTaika Cohen
EducationVictoria University of Wellington (BA)
Occupations
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
  • actor
  • comedian
Years active1999–present
WorksFilmography
Spouses
  • (m. 2011; sep. 2018)
  • (m. 2022)
Children2
Signature

Taika David Cohen ONZM (born 16 August 1975), known professionally as Taika Waititi (/ˈtkəˈwtɪti/ TY-kə WY-tih-tee),[1] is a New Zealand filmmaker, actor and comedian. He is known for directing quirky comedy films and has expanded his career as a voice actor and producer on numerous projects. He has received numerous accolades including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award and a Grammy Award, as well as two nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022.

His feature films Boy (2010) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) have each been the top-grossing New Zealand film.[2][3] 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 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 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 directed, executive produced, and starred 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.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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Transcription

Early life

Taika David Cohen[4][5][6] was born on 16 August 1975 in Wellington,[7] and grew up in Wellington's Aro Valley suburb and Raukokore, a small town in the Bay of Plenty.[8][9]

His father was an artist of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui descent, while his mother, Robin Cohen,[10] was a schoolteacher of Jewish ancestry.[11] His mother's paternal grandfather was a Russian Jew whose family came from Novozybkov, Russia.[7] Waititi stated that his mother's family were Russian Jewish, Irish, and other European ethnicities, while his father's side was "Māori and a little bit of French Canadian".[12] His paternal grandfather, also named Taika, served as a Māori Battalion soldier during World War II.[13]

Identifying as both Māori and Jewish, 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 practised[13] and identifies as an atheist who "puts more stock in indigenous beliefs."[16]

Waititi's parents divorced 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]

Although his surname is legally Cohen, Waititi has been known primarily by his father's surname for most of his life.[5][6] 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

1999–2011: Early career and film debut

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 48Hours film contest.[24] He directed the short film Two Cars, One Night (2003) which involves two young boys and a girl meeting in the carpark of a rural pub in Te Kaha, New Zealand. The short earned acclaim and a Academy Award for Best Live Action Short nomination in 2005.[25] He lost the award to Andrea Arnold who directed the short Wasp (2003).

His first feature film, a romantic comedy called Eagle vs Shark, was released in U.S. theatres for limited distribution in 2007.[26] Waititi co-wrote the film with Loren Horsley.[27] That year, Waititi wrote and directed one episode of the TV show Flight of the Conchords and directed another.[28] In 2010, he acted in the New Zealand TV3 improv sketch comedy show Radiradirah, together with frequent collaborators Rhys Darby and Jemaine Clement.[29] His second feature, Boy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010,[30] 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[31] and was successful at the local box office, eclipsing several records.[32]

In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city.[33] That year, Waititi portrayed Thomas Kalmaku in the superhero film Green Lantern.[34]

2013–2019: Career breakthrough and expansion

Waititi speaking at 2015 Sundance Film Festival

What We Do in the Shadows (2013)

In 2013, Waititi co-wrote, co-directed and acted in the vampire comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with Clement.[35] It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.[36] Waititi and Clement played members of a group of vampires who live in an appropriately gothic house in modern-day Wellington.[37] A television adaptation of the film was commissioned in May 2018, with Waititi as an executive producer and director.[38] The series of the same name premiered on FX in March 2019;[39] its second season received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.[40]

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[41] When it was released in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke Waititi's record for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend.[42] 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,[43] which focused on gender and family. Those elements were passed over in favour of what became the final story.[44][45]

Marvel films

In 2017, Waititi won the award for New Zealander of the Year, but was unable to receive it in person due to work commitments.[46] That year, he directed his first major studio film, Marvel Studios's Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in October.[47][48] He also portrayed the alien Korg via motion capture in the film.[49] He had previously directed a short film series for Marvel called Team Thor, chronicling the lives of Thor and his roommate, Darryl Jacobson.[50] Thor: Ragnarok earned critical praise and was successful at the box office.[51][52] 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.[53][54]

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

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

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.[55] Waititi received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. He won the latter,[56][57] 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.[58] In 2021 he won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media as a producer of the Jojo Rabbit soundtrack.[59]

The Mandalorian

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.[60] The series premiered on 12 November 2019; Waititi also voices a droid bounty hunter named IG-11 in the series.[61] He directed the series' first-season finale, "Chapter 8: Redemption".[62] His voiceover work earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in 2020.[40]

2020–present

In 2020, Waititi narrated a charity reading of James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.[63] He portrayed Ratcatcher in the DC superhero film The Suicide Squad, released in August 2021 to positive reviews.[64][65] Also in August, Waititi portrayed Antwan Hovachelik, the antagonist of the action comedy film Free Guy.[66]

Waititi at Toronto International Film Festival

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.[67][68] Waititi executive produced, directed and starred as Blackbeard in the HBO Max comedy series Our Flag Means Death.[69] The first season was released in March 2022.[70] That same year, Time magazine placed him on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[71] Waititi voiced Mo Morrison in the Pixar film Lightyear (2022).[72]

He wrote and directed the superhero film Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel to Thor: Ragnarok.[73] It released in July 2022.[74] The film received mixed reviews with critic Mark Kermode complained that "the jokes, the catch-phrases [are] just incredibly tired".[75] Richard Brody of The New Yorker described the film writing "The film passes through the nervous system without delivering any sustenance or even leaving a residue."[76] In her mixed review from NPR, Amy Nicholson added "I was really compelled by the ideas Taika Waititi was teasing in this film, but the actual style of it – the eagerness to please – made me take a step back from everything. [But] what he's discussing is really smart."[77]

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, was released on 17 November 2023,[78] after Armie Hammer's scenes were re-shot with Will Arnett taking over the role.[79][80][81] The film premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival to negative reviews. Esther Zuckerman of IndieWire praised some of the performances but labeled it as "largely a misfire".[82] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian described it as "a shoddily made and strikingly unfunny attempt to tell an interesting story in an uninteresting way".[83]

Upcoming projects

In 2017, Waititi stated he was working on a sequel to What We Do In The Shadows titled We're Wolves.[84] As of 2023, there have been no updates on the project. That same year, Taika Waititi entered talks to direct a live-action film adaptation of Akira.[85] He was officially confirmed as director and co-writer with Michael Golamco in 2019, with a release date of 21 May 2021.[86] However, the film's production has been on hold due to Waititi's commitments to other projects such as Thor: Love and Thunder.[87] Despite development issues, Waititi has stated that he fully intends on making the film.[88]

In 2019, it was announced that Waititi would direct an animated Flash Gordon movie for 20th Century Studios.[89] Though in 2021, it was revealed that the movie is now live action.[90] The same year, it was announced that Waititi would direct and co-write the pilot episode of a television adaptation of the Terry Gilliam film, Time Bandits. Waititi will co-write the pilot alongside frequent collaborators Jemaine Clement and Iain Morris.[91]

In 2020, Waititi was announced to be 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.[92] In 2021, it was announced that Waititi will executive produce and direct the Showtime limited series The Auteur starring Jude Law.[93] The same year, it was announced that Waititi would adapt The Incal into a feature film.[94] In 2022, Waititi was set to direct the pilot and executive produce a television adaptation of the Charles Yu novel, Interior Chinatown, with Jimmy O. Yang set to star.[95] In 2023, it was announced that he will direct a film adaptation of the novel Klara and the Sun, intending on making it his next movie after Next Goal Wins.[96]

After rumors began circulating in late 2019 and early 2020, it was officially announced on May 4, 2020 that Taika Waititi would direct and co-write a Star Wars movie with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.[97] In 2022, Kathleen Kennedy stated that the film would most likely come out before Patty Jenkins' Rogue Squadron.[98] In 2023, reports stated that Waititi was looking to star in the film.[99] The next month, Kennedy stated that Waititi's film is still in development and that he was now writing the film alone.[100] The film was reported to start filming in 2024.[101]

Personal life

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.[27] Waititi married New Zealand film producer Chelsea Winstanley in 2011.[102] They have two daughters.[103] He and Winstanley separated in 2018.[104][105] Waititi has been in a relationship with British singer Rita Ora since 2021.[106][107] They married in August 2022.[108][109][110]

Support for indigenous artists

Waititi incorporates his Māori and indigenous heritage into his projects, such as by including indigenous interns and having traditional owners conduct a Welcome to Country ceremony during the start of filming on set in Australia.[111] 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.[73] In 2021, Waititi's cousin Tweedie Waititi, whom he considers a sibling,[112] began producing and directing Māori language versions of Disney animated films due to Waititi, which she does alongside his former partner Winstanley.[113] In 2023, Waititi was the executive producer on Frybread Face and Me, a film directed by Billy Luther.[114] In 2024, Waititi served as executive producer on We Were Dangerous directed by Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu.[115]

Filmography

Directed features
Year Title Distribution
2007 Eagle vs Shark Hoyts Distribution
2010 Boy Transmission Films
Madman Entertainment
Kino Lorber
2014 What We Do in the Shadows Madman Entertainment
2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople Madman Entertainment
Piki Films
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
2019 Jojo Rabbit Fox Searchlight Pictures
2022 Thor: Love and Thunder Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
2023 Next Goal Wins Searchlight Pictures
TBA Klara and the Sun Sony Pictures Releasing

Collaborators

Below is a table outlining Waititi's numerous collaborations. Waititi and Clement also worked together on television series Radiradirah and Clement has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay. House also has a voice role in Moana, and had a minor role in Jojo Rabbit which was ultimately cut from the film.[116] Darby and Waititi also worked together on television series Radiradirah.

Collaborator Role(s) Two Cars, One Night Eagle vs Shark Flight of the Conchords Boy What We Do in the Shadows Hunt for the Wilderpeople Thor: Ragnarok Wellington Paranormal What We Do in the Shadows (TV series) Jojo Rabbit Reservation Dogs Thor: Love and Thunder Our Flag Means Death Next Goal Wins Time Bandits Klara and the Sun
Garrett Basch Producer YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Mike Berlucchi Cinematographer YesY YesY YesY YesY
Jonathan Brugh Actor YesY YesY YesY
Adam Clark Cinematographer YesY YesY YesY
Jemaine Clement Multiple YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Bevan Crothers Cinematographer YesY YesY YesY
Rhys Darby Actor YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Tom Eagles Editor YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
David Fane Actor YesY YesY YesY YesY
Ainsley Gardiner Producer YesY YesY YesY
Michael Giacchino Composer YesY YesY YesY
Cori Gonzalez-Macuer Actor YesY YesY YesY
Yana Gorskaya Multiple YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Nancy Hennah Makeup YesY YesY YesY YesY
Cohen Holloway Actor YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Loren Horsley Multiple YesY YesY YesY
Rachel House Actor YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Mike Minogue Actor YesY YesY YesY
Iain Morris Multiple YesY YesY YesY YesY
Sam Neill Actor YesY YesY YesY
Lukasz Pawel Buda Composer YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Stu Rutherford Multiple YesY YesY YesY YesY
Madeleine Sami Actor YesY YesY YesY YesY
Kristen Schaal Actor YesY YesY YesY
Samuel Scott Composer YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
DJ Stipsen Cinematographer YesY YesY YesY YesY
Ra Vincent Production designer YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY YesY
Conrad Wedde Composer YesY YesY YesY YesY

Awards and nominations

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.

Together with Jemaine Clement, Waititi won the Billy T Award in 1999. 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.[117]

See also

References

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