There’s a lot about Jojo Rabbit that makes it an especially bold and challenging concept to pull off. Adapted from the Christine Leunens penned novel Caging Skies, the film puts the spotlight on 10-year-old Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) growing up in Germany during the later years of World War II. Told largely from Jojo’s perspective, the film explores his enthusiasm for Nazi Germany including frequent visits from his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). If that concept once gave you pause, it’s easy to understand why, but the final film wound up being an extremely endearing and poignant piece about kindness, understanding and the dangers of hateful belief systems.The final film proved so successful in fact, it scored six Academy Award nominations including a Best Picture nod and also one for Waititi’s screenplay.
Waititi’s extremely thoughtful approach to the material is apparent throughout the story but during our recent Collider FYC screening and Q&A for Jojo Rabbit, I got the chance to ask him about one particular part of the movie – the very beginning. After getting a pep talk from his imaginary friend, Jojo takes to the streets with fervency, making a mad dash to Hitler Youth training camp to the tune of The Beatles singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in German. How does one get the rights to a song like that for this purpose? Waititi explained:
“We had to send the clip and our idea to Paul [McCartney] and to Ringo [Starr] – and to their people, I guess – and also to Yoko [Ono] and just sort of say, ‘This is the idea.’ Well, what was lucky was they responded to it and accepted it.”
“I think the danger I guess is them looking at it and saying, ‘Are you trying to say that we were like the Hitlers of the 50s and 60s?’ I was watching these documentaries on the Hitler Youth and all the rallies and stuff and just seeing the crowds, and when I was watching them I thought, ‘Oh my god, this looks just like Beatlemania.’ It just struck me that this one person or this one group of people could capture the hearts of a country and create such fervor. It felt to me like the sort of best way to explain to modern audiences what it was like for them, for their country.”
A very effective choice right there, which is one of many made by Waititi throughout Jojo Rabbit. If you want to hear more about his experience making the movie – and sit through a wildly entertaining and hilarious Q&A in the process – keep an eye out for our full Collider FYC conversation with the newly minted Academy Award nominee soon.
If you’re looking for more Collider FYC interviews right now, you can check out the one we had with Us writer-director Jordan Peele over here and click here for the Parasite Q&A with director Bong Joon-ho and star Song Kang-ho.