Taika Waititi
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Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Waititi at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con promoting Thor: Love and Thunder
Taika David Cohen

(1975-08-16) 16 August 1975 (age 45)
Raukokore, New Zealand
Alma materVictoria University of Wellington
  • Director
  • producer
  • writer
  • actor
  • comedian
Years active1999-present
Known for
(m. 2011)

Taika David Cohen (born 16 August 1975), known professionally as Taika Waititi ,[1] 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.[2][3]

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 an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler. Jojo Rabbit was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning Best Adapted Screenplay. 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.

Early life

Taika David Cohen[4][5][6] was born in Raukokore in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand's North Island,[7] and grew up in both the East Coast and the Aro Valley of Wellington.[8][9] His father was an artist and was of Te Wh?nau-?-Apanui descent, whilst his mother, Robin Cohen,[10] is a schoolteacher.[11][12] Waititi stated that his mother's family were Russian Jews, "mixed with a bit of Irish" and other European ancestry, while his father's side was "M?ori and a little bit of French Canadian".[13] Waititi describes himself as a "Polynesian Jew".[14][15]

Waititi's parents split up when he was around five,[16] and he was raised primarily by his mother.[8] He attended Onslow College for secondary school.[17] He studied theatre at Victoria University of Wellington and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1997.[18] 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.[4][19] He continued to use the name Waititi professionally following the success of his first short film.[20]


Early career

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.[21] 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.[22] Among a variety of artistic interests, Waititi began making comical short films for New Zealand's annual 48-hour film contest.[23] In 2005 his short film Two Cars, One Night earned him an Academy Award nomination.[24] At the awards ceremony, he famously feigned falling asleep as the nominations were being read out.[25][26] His first feature film, oddball romantic comedy Eagle vs Shark, was released in U.S. theatres for limited distribution in 2007.[27] The film stars Waititi's then real-life partner, Loren Horsley, as Lily.[28] The same year, Waititi wrote and directed one episode of the TV show Flight of the Conchords and was director of another.[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] 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.[33] The song ultimately reached number three on the charts, but managed to become number one on iTunes.[34] In 2011, Waititi directed New Zealand TV series Super City starring Madeleine Sami, who plays five characters living in one city.[35] That same year, Waititi portrayed Thomas Kalmaku in the superhero film Green Lantern.[36]

2013-2017: What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok

Taika Waititi speaking at 2015 Sundance Film Festival

In 2013, Waititi co-wrote and co-directed vampire comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows with friend and fellow comedian Jemaine Clement.[37] The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.[38] Waititi and Clement played members of a group of vampires who live in an appropriately gothic house in modern-day Wellington.[39] A television adaptation of the film was commissioned in May 2018, with Waititi on board as an executive producer and director.[40] The series of the same name premiered on FX in March 2019.[41] The series' second season received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series.[42]

Waititi's fourth feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.[43] When it was released in New Zealand, the comedy adventure broke Waititi's own record for a New Zealand film in its opening weekend.[44] 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,[45] which focused on gender and family. Those elements were passed over in favour of what would become the finalised story.[46]

In 2017, Waititi won the award for New Zealander of the Year, but was unable to receive it in person due to work commitments.[47] That same year, Waititi directed his first major film, Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in October.[48][49] He also portrayed Korg, a Kronan, via motion capture in the film.[50] 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.[51][52]

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.[53] However, Waititi left the project in 2019 due to a heavy work schedule.[54] 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.[55] For his work on the film, Waititi received two Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the latter.[56][57] This made him the first person of M?ori 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.[58]

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.[59] The series premiered on 12 November 2019; Waititi also voices a droid bounty hunter named IG-11 in the series.[60] He directed the first season finale episode of The Mandalorian, "Chapter 8: Redemption".[61] His voiceover work on the series earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in 2020.[42] In 2020, Waititi narrated a charity reading of James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.[62]

Upcoming projects

Waititi was reportedly set to direct a new live-action film adaptation of Akira as well as co-write a sequel to What We Do in the Shadows, titled We're Wolves.[63][64] In July 2019, it was reported that Waititi will write and direct Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel to Ragnarok,[65][66] causing Akira to be delayed indefinitely.[65] 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.[67]

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.[68] 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.[69]

Personal life

Waititi married fellow M?ori filmmaker Chelsea Winstanley in 2011.[70][71] They have two daughters.[11]

In the run-up to the 2017 New Zealand general election, Waititi announced his support for Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party.[72]



Year Film Director Writer Producer Notes
2007 Eagle vs Shark Yes Yes No
2010 Boy 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
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Yes No No
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

Short films

Year Film Director Writer Producer Notes
2002 John and Pogo Yes Yes No
2004 Two Cars, One Night Yes Yes No Nominated - Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
2005 Tama T? Yes Yes No
What We Do in the Shadows:
Interviews with Some Vampires
Yes Yes No
2016 Team Thor Yes Yes Yes
2017 Team Thor: Part 2 Yes Yes Yes
2018 Team Darryl Yes Yes Yes

Acting roles

Year Film Role Notes
1999 Scarfies Alex
2001 Snakeskin Nelson
A New Way Home Max Short film
2004 Futile Attraction Waiter
2005 What We Do in the Shadows:
Interviews with Some Vampires
Viago Short film
2007 Eagle vs Shark Gordon
2010 Boy Alamein
2011 Green Lantern Thomas Kalmaku
2013 The Captain[73] The Captain Short film
2014 What We Do in the Shadows Viago
2016 Hunt for the Wilderpeople Minister
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Korg
Surtur (motion-capture)
2018 Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss Holy Storsh
Shrimp Bartender Short film
2019 Avengers: Endgame Korg
Jojo Rabbit Adolf Hitler
2021 Free Guy Antoine Post-production
The Suicide Squad TBA Post-production

Other works

Year Film Role
2016 Doctor Strange Wrote and directed the mid-credits scene (uncredited)
Moana Wrote the initial screenplay[45] (uncredited)
2018 The Breaker Upperers Executive producer[74]


Year Title Director Writer Executive
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
2018-present Wellington Paranormal No No Yes Co-creator
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"[61]

Acting roles

Year Title Role Notes
2002 The Strip Mostin 13 Episodes
The Tribe Virtual Reality Cowboy No.1 (uncredited) Episode: "Episode #4.24"
2003 Revelations Ali Episode: "Mended Sole"
Freaky Cleaner Episode: "Fridge, Cleaner & Sister"
2007 Flight of the Conchords Gipsy Kings fan (uncredited) Episode: "Drive By"
Cameo; also directed
2009 The Jaquie Brown Diaries Friendly Gypsy Episode: "Brownward Spiral"
2010 Radiradirah Various 8 episodes
2019 What We Do in the Shadows Viago Episode: "The Trial"
The Mandalorian IG-11[75] 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[76] Upcoming
2021 What If...? Korg[77] Voice

Music videos


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.[78] The commercial went viral amassing over 19 million views on YouTube.[79] Waititi directed Tesco's "Borg," which features a comical Thor-esque character shopping in the supermarket;[80] notably, he went on to direct Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok years later.

Frequent collaborators

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 Yes Yes 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 Yes Yes Yes Yes House also has a voice role in Moana, a film for which Waititi wrote the initial screenplay.
Stu Rutherford Yes Yes Yes Yes Co-invented a lighting system used on certain scenes in Thor: Ragnarok[84]
Cohen Holloway Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Craig Hall Yes Yes
Rhys Darby Yes Yes Darby and Waititi also worked together on television series Flight of the Conchords and Radiradirah
Cori Gonzalez-Macuer Yes Yes
Oscar Kightley Yes Kightley and Waititi also worked together on the television series Super City and Radiradirah
Mike Minogue Yes Yes
Sam Neill Yes Yes
Chris Hemsworth Yes Yes
Tessa Thompson Yes Yes


Critical response

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Eagle vs Shark 54% (107 reviews)[85] 55 (25 reviews)[86]
Boy 87% (71 reviews)[87] 70 (19 reviews)[88]
What We Do in the Shadows 96% (183 reviews)[89] 76 (33 reviews)[90]
Hunt for the Wilderpeople 96% (198 reviews)[91] 81 (30 reviews)[92]
Thor: Ragnarok 93% (421 reviews)[93] 74 (51 reviews)[94]
Jojo Rabbit 80% (405 reviews)[95] 57 (55 reviews)[96]

Box office performance

Film Studio Release date Box office gross Budget Reference
New Zealand North America Worldwide
Eagle vs Shark Miramax 15 June 2007 (2007-06-15) $733,972 $221,846 $1,298,037 N/A [97]
Boy Transmission Films 25 March 2010 (2010-03-25) $6,750,042 $256,211 $8,621,535 N/A [98]
What We Do in the Shadows Madman Entertainment 19 January 2014 (2014-01-19) $2,001,400 $3,469,224 $6,263,224 $1.6 million [99]
Hunt for the Wilderpeople Madman Entertainment 22 January 2016 (2016-01-22) $8,628,197 $5,205,468 $22,698,454 $2.5 million [100]
Thor: Ragnarok Marvel Studios 3 November 2017 (2017-11-03) $4,486,969 $315,058,289 $853,977,126 $180 million [101]
Jojo Rabbit Fox Searchlight 18 October 2019 (2019-10-18) $3,141,977 $30,258,159 $77,510,752 $14 million [102]


In the 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours, Waititi was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to film.[103]


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External links

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