Taika David Waititi (/ˈtaɪkə waɪˈtiːti/ ( listen); born 16 August 1975), also known as Taika Cohen, is a New Zealand film director, screenwriter, actor, and comedian. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night.
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 2018. He co-directed the horror comedy film What We Do in the Shadows (2014) with Jemaine Clement, which brought him further critical acclaim and recognition. Waititi later directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which received critical acclaim.
Waititi at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con
|Born||Taika David Waititi
16 August 1975
Wellington, New Zealand
|Alma mater||Victoria University of Wellington|
|Occupation||Film director, screenwriter, actor and comedian|
|Known for||Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok|
Waititi is from the Raukokore area of the East Coast region of the North Island of New Zealand and grew up there and in Wellington, and attended Onslow College for secondary school. His father is Māori of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and his mother is Jewish (of Russian Jewish heritage). Waititi has used his mother's surname, "Cohen", for some of his work in film and writing.
While a drama student at Victoria University of Wellington, 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.
Waititi has also acted on screen since early in his career. He won a local film award for his work as one of the students in the successful low-budget Dunedin film Scarfies (1999) and had smaller roles in the road movie Snakeskin (2001) and the TV series The Strip (2002–03). Waititi played Thomas Kalmaku in 2011 superhero film Green Lantern, and took large roles in two of his own films: 2010's Boy, and 2014's What We Do in the Shadows, which he co-directed and co-wrote with Jemaine Clement. He also plays Korg, a Kronan, via motion capture in his 2017 superhero film Thor: Ragnarok.
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 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 modern-day Wellington.
Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. When it was released back 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 the late Barry Crump, the film centres around a young boy and a grumpy man (played by Sam Neill) on the run in the forest.
Waititi directed his first major Hollywood film, Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in October 2017. 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 will be collaborating with Mark Gustafson to direct the upcoming stop-motion animated film Bubbles, which is about the life of Michael Jackson seen from the perspective of his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. Waititi is also reportedly directing a new live-action film version of Akira and is preparing to start co-writing a sequel to What We Do in the Shadows, titled We're Wolves. Waititi is also working on an upcoming feature Jojo Rabbit, the story of a young Nazi with an imaginary Jewish friend, in which Waititi will play Hitler.
|2001||A New Way Home||No||No||No||Yes||Short film
|2002||John and Pogo||Yes||No||Yes||No||Short film|
|2003||Two Cars, One Night||Yes||No||Yes||No||Short film|
|2004||Tama Tu||Yes||No||Yes||No||Short film|
|2004||Futile Attraction||No||No||No||Yes||Role: Waiter|
|2005||What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews with Some Vampires||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Short film
|2007||Eagle vs Shark||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Role: Gordon|
|2011||Green Lantern||No||No||No||Yes||Role: Thomas Kalmaku|
|2013||The Captain||No||No||No||Yes||Short film
Role: The Captain
|2014||What We Do in the Shadows||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Role: Viago|
|2016||Hunt for the Wilderpeople||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Role: Minister|
|2016||Team Thor||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Short film|
|2016||Doctor Strange||No||No||No||No||Uncredited; directed mid-credits scene|
|2016||Moana||No||No||No||No||Uncredited; wrote initial screenplay|
|2017||Thor: Ragnarok||Yes||No||No||Yes||Role: Korg|
|2018||The Breaker Upperers||No||Yes||No||No||Executive Producer|
|TBA||Jojo Rabbit||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Role: Adolf Hitler|
|2002||The Strip||13 Episodes||Role: Mostin|
|2003||Revelations||Episode: "Mended Sole"||Role: Ali|
|2003||Freaky||Episode: "Fridge, Cleaner & Sister"||Role: Cleaner|
|2007–2009||Flight of the Conchords||4 episodes||Director and writer|
|2009||The Jaquie Brown Diaries||Episode: "Brownward Spiral"||Role: Friendly Gypsy|
|2010||Radiradirah||8 episodes||Role: Various characters|
|2011||Super City||6 episodes||Director|
|2012||The Inbetweeners||5 Episodes||Director|
|2015||Brown Eye||Season 1||Writer and executive Producer|
|2018||Wellington Paranormal||In Development||Co-Creator|
|Actor||Eagle vs Shark (2007)||Boy (2010)||What We Do in the Shadows (2014)||Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)||Thor: Ragnarok (2017)||Jojo Rabbit (TBA)||Notes|
|Jemaine Clement||Clement and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords and Radiradirah|
|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|
|Scarlett Johansson||Archival footage from Avengers: Age of Ultron was used for Johansson’s appearance in Thor: Ragnarok|
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 16 million views on YouTube. Waititi directed Tesco's "Borg" which features a comical Thor-esque character shopping in the supermarket, notably, he went onto direct Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok years later.
|Eagle vs Shark||54% (107 reviews)||55 (25 reviews)|
|Boy||87% (69 reviews)||70 (19 reviews)|
|What We Do in the Shadows||96% (161 reviews)||76 (33 reviews)|
|Hunt for the Wilderpeople||97% (172 reviews)||81 (30 reviews)|
|Thor: Ragnarok||92% (323 reviews)||73 (48 reviews)|
|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||$294,865,064||$820,990,769||$180 million|||