LOS ANGELES -- Taika Waititi is soft-spoken and polite as he closes the blinds in this Four Seasons suite, takes off his shoes to reveal brightly colored socks and stretches out on his side along the couch. The asymmetrically coiffed director of the Oscar-contending Nazi comedy (yes, Nazi comedy) "Jojo Rabbit" may come off as a mad artist, but at least he's a nice one. And comfortable.
"I'm turning a sports documentary into a film at the end of the year 1/8both are titled 'Next Goal Wins'3/8. Sometimes the fear is, 'It shouldn't veer too much from the documentary; it's a true story,'" says one of New Zealand's favorite sons.
"If you want the real events, watch the documentary," he adds. "I'm not in the business of telling the truth. There's that great saying, 'Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.' Because otherwise, films would just be boring."
He laughs and amends that to allow it's a recitation of facts he's not interested in, while keeping his sights on "truth."
"But it's a human truth. The details and facts are beside the point. A human experience, trying to change someone emotionally or affect them emotionally, that's the truth that you're seeking.
"So with the book, I didn't feel guilty at all, changing stuff," he says, though giggling, "because I have to make it interesting for myself. I have to want to watch the movie."
The book in question is Christine Leunens' "Caging Skies," the basis of "Jojo Rabbit." He describes the novel as "quite dark": the story of an enthusiastic Hitler Youth discovering a Jewish girl hidden in his home.
In "Jojo Rabbit," director Taika Waititi brings to life a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.
"For me to stay interested in doing it, I had to keep it in my wheelhouse, my sensibilities -- add humor and lightness and weave in and out of the dramatic story. I don't particularly care about telling a story about Nazis. I wanted to look at war through the lens of children."
So the iconoclastic filmmaker, whose offbeat, humanistic narratives include all-time New Zealand box-office champs ("Boy" and "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"), the vampires-as-schmoes mockumentary "What We Do in the Shadows" and one of the craziest MCU entries, "Thor: Ragnarok," put his indelible stamp on "Jojo Rabbit."