From Hunt For The Wilderpeople to Thor: Ragnarok, 2016 has been a big year for Taika Waititi. However, the Kiwi director has taken things in his stride.
Taika Waititi admits that he hasn’t really had a chance to draw a breath in 2016. His fourth film Hunt For The Wilderpeople not only became the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time but went onto become a critical smash all over the world. For much of that time, however, the New Zealander was hard at work here on his first major Hollywood assignment Thor: Ragnarok, filming for which had just been completed when STACK caught up with him for a quick chat over the phone.
So how has he found the transition from an indie film such as Hunt For The Wilderpeople to a studio blockbuster? “Really easy,” he replies, tongue slightly in cheek. “It’s the same thing – there’s just more people involved and the food’s a bit better. You an afford more things but the actual process of making a film hasn’t been that different.”
Waititi couldn’t say much about what fans could expect from Ragnarok, except they can look forward to “a very new and fresh direction with Thor”. He was also cautious about whether it would be offering a more irreverent take on the Marvel superhero.
“I don’t know, the first place I usually go is the irreverent side,” he says. “But it’s same with Wilderpeople – there is a lot of irreverence but you also have to give it some heart and ground it in something emotional. So I hope to get a similar balance with Thor.”
Similarly, Waititi was unable to go into any detail about Wilderpeople star Sam Neill’s involvement in the new Thor movie (“I can’t talk about what Sam’s role is because it would give away too much”), but he’s been pleased with the way Neill and his young co-star Julian Denison have been handling the international press duties for the Kiwi hit.
“I didn’t get to go on any of those trips, but I think they are good team – when they did interviews together they bounced off each other well.”
He also believes Denison will be taking his new found international fame in his stride. “He’s a very humble kid,” Waititi says. “He doesn’t talk himself up much. He’s actually very polite: he’s an entertaining character in the film but he would never talk to anyone like that [in real life]. Sometimes we would do a scene and he would say ‘I am not sure I should say that’ and we would have to ask his Mum for permission.”
Nevertheless, Waititi admits he was a little surprised by how well Hunt For The Wilderpeople has been embraced by international audiences. “I knew it would appeal to New Zealanders – and to some extent in Australia – but we didn’t realise it would travel so well,” he says.
Waititi believes its appeal lies partly in the fact that it’s a true underdog story, but also because it’s not as cynical as many modern day movies. “There is a little bit of that in there but at the end of the day it’s a nice story about two people trying to find family – and then they do. We tried to embrace heartfelt moments without making it too cheesy. Usually I would shy away from that because I don’t like sentimentality but in this one I have changed a little bit. The result of that was kids, parents and grandparents all going together to the film.”