How do you solve a problem like playing Adolf Hitler in a World War II-era comedy? If you’re Taika Waititi, you do as little preparation as possible. “At first I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do some research,’” the writer, director and star of the Oscar-nominated Jojo Rabbit remarks in a clip from an all-new featurette that Yahoo Entertainment is premiering today. “And then I thought, ‘Well, hang on a minute — we don’t owe him any authenticity, and I don’t really want to play that guy and give him the satisfaction of having someone try to be him.’” (Watch the clip above.)
Instead, Waititi decided to portray the Nazi leader as a “stupider version of myself,” an approach that has won accolades since the movie’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Jojo Rabbit has also earned six Oscar nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, which Waititi freely adapted from the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. Where the novel maintained a more serious tone, the film — which debuted on digital services on Feb. 4, and comes to 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on Feb. 18 — lightens the mood considerably, while still allowing the horrors that Hitler perpetrated to creep in around the edges.
And the movie’s cast and crew certainly experienced twinges of horror when they saw their director in full Hitler get-up. Producer Cathew Neal saw Waititi’s make-up enabled transformation — shown for the first time in this featurette, which will be included on the movie’s home entertainment release — and describes the experience as “a bit shocking.” That feeling carried over on set as well. “At times [Taika] was super terrifying," co-star Scarlett Johansson told Yahoo Entertainment last year. “Especially when he was in his prime with the blue contacts in. He would always say to you, 'Don't look me, I look terrible. I know, just don't look at my face. I'm terrifying right now.’”
Fortunately, he didn’t scare the movie’s young leads, Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. “In person, he’s super-positive and everything,” Davis says in the featurette, while also adding that Waititi occasionally got carried away in the moment. “He got really into character, so when he’d answer people, he’d answer as if he was Hitler.”
Jojo Rabbit is now available on digital and arrives on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on Feb. 18
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