Taika Waititi took the book “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens and turned it into his first Oscar win Sunday evening for best adapted screenplay for the film “Jojo Rabbit,” but said he was open with the original author about “major changes” he made in his version.
“I was about a quarter of the way through the book, and I was pretty upfront with my intentions,” Waititi said backstage at the Dolby Theatre. “She (Leunens) already knew I was incapable of making a drama.”
“Jojo Rabbit” is set during World War II and the main character is lonely German boy, whose world is turned around when he discovers his single mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront his own nationalism.
Waititi portrayed the imaginary version of Hitler in the film, and he said the film’s historical pieces are relevant in Sunday’s geopolitical arena.
“If you’re a Nazi, feel free to have a rally in Times Square and invite your mates,” Waititi said. “We have forgotten the rules I guess, so I feel like this is a perfect time for a film like this. It’s become more relevant, which is a sad thing, but it was a good thing for me.”
Waititi said the script for “Jojo Rabbit” was placed on a black list of sorts in 2012 — “no one wanted to make it.”
When asked what he would have told himself eight years ago, he said he would have reminded himself to recognize what is most important in life and take care of his child, who had just been born.
“Eat vegetables, don’t take life too seriously,” Waititi said he’d tell himself. “I had my first kid then. Just as my script hit the black list, I had a baby. So I guess I’d tell my 2012 self, `You’ve got to look after that baby, and nothing else really matters and nothing is more important than that baby.”’
“Jojo Rabbit” also earned a nomination for best picture.
The nomination for adapted screenplay was Waititi’s first in the category. He was nominated in 2004 for best live-action short film for “Two Cars, One Night.”