During the Toronto International Film Festival Master Class in September 2018 (via IndieWire), Waititi revealed the real reason why he wanted to play the role of Hitler in his feature film. A member of the audience asked Waititi, who has Russian Jewish heritage and has described himself as “a Polynesian Jew,” to explain this desire, and he gave a perfectly on-brand response: “The answer is simple: what better ‘f*** you’ to that guy?”
In an interview with Deadline, Waititi further discussed how he crafted this campy version of Hitler, who, in Jojo Rabbit, is depicted more so as an overgrown kid playing dress-up in Nazi regalia. Essentially, the filmmaker wanted to make fun of one of the most hated men to ever exist.
Waititi told the outlet that he “didn’t do any research” and “didn’t base him on anything [he’d] seen about Hitler before,” since the character in Jojo Rabbit is basically a 10-year-old child’s idea of who the Nazi Party figurehead is. “I just made him a version of myself that happened to have a bad haircut, and a s***** little mustache, and a mediocre German accent,” he said. “It would just be too weird to play the actual Hitler, and I don’t think people would enjoy the character as much. Because he was such a f******* c***, and everyone knows that as well. I think people have got to relate to really enjoy the ride.”
Critics have largely praised Waititi’s performance as “imaginary friend Hitler,” and the film itself scooped up a ton of accolades and nominations during the 2019-2020 awards season (including the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), proving that playing Hitler actually did Waititi a lot of good. Middle fingers up!