92nd Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

SPEECH BY: Taika Waititi


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Q. So you've talked a lot about how your mom gave you the book and --
A. Well, I put the word out there, didn't I, about that.

Q. And, you know, it's very different from the book. I'm just curious, how did you break the news to Christine Leunens that you were making such big changes?
A. I was a quarter of the way through the book when I talked to her and I just -- and I was pretty upfront with my intentions. And she'd seen my other films before so she already knew that I was incapable of making a drama.

Q. [Unintelligible] -- the birthplace in Austria in Vienna. So just a little bit of the Oscar maybe belongs to Vienna --
A. There we go, there we go. I'll chip a piece off for you.

Q. Congratulations.
A. Thank you. Thank you.

Q. It does belong a little bit to Austria and Vienna.
A. No (laughs).

Q. Your child actors in the film are so incredible, talented, Thomasin McKenzie and Roman Griffin Davis. How did they enhance your dialog, and what is the challenge for writing for children in particular?
A. I've worked with kids in most of my films so I'm pretty used to it. I audition kids looking for a child that resembles the character I've written as close as possible, so then they don't actually have to act. They just have to remember the words and say them as fast as possible. And that's acting.

Q. So with the upcoming Writers Guild talks, I was just curious, what are some of the needs that you believe that writers should be asking for in the next round the talks with producers?
A. Apple needs to fix those keyboards. They are impossible to write on.  They have gotten worse, makes me want to go back to PCs because PC keyboard, the bounceback for your fingers is way better. And hands up who still uses a PC. You know what I'm talking about, it's a way better keyboard, and those Apple keyboards are horrendous. And especially as the computers -- as the laptops get newer and newer, here's the latest, the latest one, the latest new iMac, the keyboards are worse. And I've got very -- I've got some shoulder problems, I've got, like, a sort of loose -- I don't know what you call it over here, this thing here, which is that tendon that goes from, like, the forearm down into the thumb. You know what I'm talking about, you guys who are writing. And what happens is you open the laptop and you're like this.  So the laptop -- you just got to fix those keyboards. WGA needs to step in and actually do something. Next.

Q. So in October, I asked you how you were preparing for the awards season, and then you said you were going to be working in Hawaii.
A. Yeah, I did.

Q. Now, tell us, tonight, today -- I'm sure you prepared -- did you get to say everything in your acceptance speech that you wanted to?
A. No. You saw my acceptance speech, it was the worst. I  didn't -- I mean, I did remember everyone's name, I just don't want to -- you don't want to go up there and actually say lots of people's names. That seems like a waste of time. I mean, people who've known me -- I've said to people before I came here, "If I have to go up, I'm not going, thank you. Because
why should I? I did all the typing. No one else did it."  And all the words came from my head. So, bottom line, I'm not going to thank my lawyer for that. I love him. He's done great stuff for me, he got me a bloody good deal on THOR:  LOVE AND THUNDER, but he didn't type anything on JOJO RABBIT. So, you know, as far as acceptance speeches go, I think mine was probably the most truthful speech that anyone's ever given.  I think we can all agree on that.

Q. Hi, Taika. (Name) from the Black List. Congratulations.
A. (Sings) Thank you for putting my script on the Black List --

Q. You're so welcome.
A. -- back in 2012. My script hit the Black List and nobody wanted to make it.

Q. Well, somebody wanted to make it. You are up here tonight, so congrats to that. I was wondering --
A. I wanted to say something in front of all you all. Searchlight, we don't say the "F"-word part of it anymore. Searchlight were the only people who had the "B"-word to actually make this film and follow through with it, and I owe a lot of this to them; not to Austria, to Searchlight.

Q. So my question is, from the time that the script was on the Black List eight years ago to today, what is something you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the beginning of that writing process knowing what you know now?
A. Eat vegetables. Don't take life too seriously. No, I don't know. 2012, well, I don't know. I mean, I had my first kid then. So just as my script hit the Black List, I had a baby. So I guess I would tell my 2012 self just, "You got to -- just, you got to look after that baby. And nothing else really matters. And it's -- nothing else is more important than that baby."

Q. Mazel tov. I understand that the movie was just adopted as an educational tool by the USC Shoah Foundation. What does that mean to you?
A. I mean, that's -- there's been a few things before tonight that have made me feel validated in the efforts to make this film and why I wanted to make the film, and a few things happened. One of them was that Mel Brooks gave it his seal of approval in front of most of Hollywood and in this AFI lunch. And I leaned over to my producer at the time and I said, "This whole awards season can go down the drain as far as I'm concerned. This is our Oscar." The fact that this guy, one of my heroes, has given us this, you know, recognition. There's one moment. A few other times with people from Q&A's, after Q&A's, people whose parents had survived or, you know, been through various camps during the war who said, "God, I wish my parents were here to see this because they would have loved this film." And so, you know, it's nerve-wracking making a film like this and putting -- and infusing it with humor.  And then when the Shoah Foundation said that they were going to make that part of their education curriculum, that, for me, sort of sealed everything and made me feel like, yes, it's worthwhile, and, you know, there is a point to telling these stories again and again in different ways, and this is just one of the different ways we got to tell these stories.

Q. Congratulations. You began working on this film years ago when you were worried about kind of the direction things were going in this state of global affairs. We are now heading into a new election in America, we've had Brexit. I wonder how are you feeling about things now?
A. I have lived in a little bubble for six weeks to where any spare moment I would curl up under a table and go to sleep. So I haven't really, like -- I have no idea what is happening in the world. And it feels really weird to be, like -- because I'm not usually like that. But, yeah. A lot of us making the film was in response to a resurgence of hate and intolerance and hate speech.  And here's the thing, at the end of the war, there's a very clear rule: If you are a Nazi, you went to jail. Now, the rules have changed a bit. If you are a Nazi, feel free to have a rally down in the town square and invite all your mates. So something's changed and something's not right. And we have forgotten the rules, I guess. And so I feel like this is the perfect time for a film like this. And I feel like the film has become more important and more relevant today, which is a sad thing, but also good for me.


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