When you’re writing a comedy that involves Hitler being an imaginary friend to a young boy, there’s going to be something of a mountain to climb in terms of actually getting an actor (particularly if they’re a big star) to agree to play the role. And this was a problem that Thor: Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi had to overcome when writing his Oscar-winning script for JoJo Rabbit.
Speaking to GQ about the movies he’s written, directed and starred in, Waititi said; “We started thinking who would play this imaginary Hitler? This was about 2011 – and we started sending it out to different people. I don’t think a lot of actors even got to look at the script.”
“Basically, I think a lot of agents were like – hell no, I’m not sending this to my client. There’s no way in hell, it’ll ruin my client’s career, making them play Hitler. So I don’t think a lot of these people actually got to see it. We were going to these actors because at the time, to make a film like this, you needed A-listers.”
Waititi continued; “You need big names to be able to sell these films. What then happened is I went off and I made What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Thor: Ragnarok and just left that script on ice. By the time I came back to it, the whole cinematic landscape had changed and you didn’t need A-listers to sell your film anymore, you actually just needed good films.”
“So Searchlight picked up the script, and they said ‘we want to make it, under one condition – that you play Hitler.’ I swear to you – I know this is going to sound like a lie – I had no intention of playing that character when I wrote it. Look at me, I’m a brown supermodel – it doesn’t make any sense.”
“What they [Searchlight] said started to make sense – if you do get a massive actor to play Hitler in a small film about two kids overcoming their differences and intolerances, the whole thing gets overshadowed when you have a massive celebrity playing Hitler. ‘Denzel Washington is Hitler’- it’s just not gonna work, mate.”