Created by: Christine Leunens
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Taika Waititi
Other cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates
A World War II satire about a ten-year-old boy who, ridiculed by his peers and misunderstood by his mother, can’t quite figure out how to fit in. As the naïve young German struggles to understand his place in an increasingly Fascist regime, he resorts to an imaginary friend (to be played by Taika) who can offer advice and help him cope.
Trivia & Production Info
– Taika Waititi discovered in his research that WWII Germany was very vibrant and fashionable, and was interested in shying away from traditional war films showing it as dreary and dark, instead presenting the town as a seemingly celebratory place and dressing characters as stylishly as possible. He liked the idea that everything seems happy, but just underneath the surface “the third Reich is crumbling, and, you know, the dream is over.”
– When Taika Waititi, who is Maori/Jewish, was asked about why he chose to play the role of Adolf Hitler, he said “The answer’s simple, what better ‘fuck you’ to the guy?”
– Sam Rockwell said that in addition to having a dialogue coach to learn the accent, he watched classical and veteran actors like Marlon Brando, Ralph Fiennes, and Oskar Werner portray World War II-era Germans, and then decided that ultimately his character would be more like Bill Murray or Walter Matthau with a German accent.
– Taika Waititi described the film as a love letter to his mother, and single parents everywhere: “It wasn’t until I was a grown up and I had kids of my own that I realized ‘oh, these parent people, they make a lot of sacrifices, it’s really hard raising a kid!'”
– Stephen Merchant said he imagined members of the Gestapo like his character as “quite petty bureaucrats” who, prior to the war received little respect, and during the war let their power go to their heads.
– The various military decorations that Captain Klenzendorf wears in the film indicate that he’s an heroic combat veteran and not just some administrator or incompetent who’s been assigned to babysit the Hitler Youth, to get him out of the way. He has both the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class (both awarded for personal acts of heroism), a bronze close combat clasp (signifying that he’s fought in a minimum of 15 hand-to-hand engagements), a silver tank destruction badge (awarded for individually destroying an enemy tank with a hand-held weapon), and a gold wound badge (meaning that he’s been wounded in combat at least 5 times).
– Taika Waititi has known Thomasin McKenzie (Elsa) since she was “very, very little” as he’s friends with her parents, from New Zealand’s theater scene. He tasked her with watching Heathers (1989) to give her the vibe he was looking for with the character.
– Taika Waititi doesn’t like to give a lot of direction to actors. “I don’t feel it’s necessary if someone knows the words and can say them relatively fast and not maybe feel like they’re ‘acting’.”
– One of Taika Waititi’s reasons for making the film was the realization that after World War II people cried that “we should never forget,” but given the behavior of “certain people in certain parts of the world,” it felt to him like we are forgetting.
– Taika Waititi did no research about Hitler, saying that he is a “f*cking c*nt”.
– Regarding the visual style, Waititi wanted something bright and colorful as most films covering this period are often desaturated with dull tones. “I wanted to show something that was actually a bit more authentic to the colors of the time. Germany was the height of fashion and design and textiles.”
– The small propaganda papers that Rosie distributes say “Befreit Deutschland – Bekaempft die Partei” – in English, “Free Germany – Fight the Party” (meaning the Nazi Party).
– The film is based on Christine Leunens’s novel Caging Skies, a book that Waititi’s mom loved before turning him onto it as well. “Imaginary Hitler is not in the book,” he adds, although the rest of the story’s main characters are.
– In one scene, the Adolf Hitler character appears in a traditional Native American headdress. Hitler was a fan of German writer Karl May, whose most famous books were supposed autobiographical tales set in the American west featuring an Apache man named Winnetou. May’s books fostered a fascination in Germany for Native Americans. Hitler also compared the conquest and expulsion of the Native Americans by whites, to the future conquest and displacement of Slavic peoples by the Germans, calling the Volga “our Mississippi.”
– Taika Waititi wore a fat suit while portraying Adolf Hitler.
– As Taika Waititi says in an on-set interview, the message of the film is, “We need to be more tolerant and spread more love and less hate.”
– Mel Brooks, the creator of The Producers (1967), praised the film in his speech at the AFI awards in Jan 2020: “I just saw Jojo Rabbit (2019), and it’s really a terrific and eloquent and beautiful picture.”
– This film marks the third year in a row that Sam Rockwell appears in a film nominated for ‘Best Picture’ after Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) and Vice (2018).
– Even though the spoken dialogue is all in English, all written or printed text in the movie is in German.
– Waititi uses storyboards sporadically. “It really depends. If there’s quite a few actors then I will start boarding everything and figuring it out beforehand, and then if not, if it’s something that’s relatively simple I’ll make it up on the day.”
– In the scene where Jojo discovers Elsa, his sister Inge’s ballet slippers are shown with her name inscribed on them. This follows the theme of focusing on shoes throughout the film
– Speaking of the context of the role, Taika Waititi stated “It’s my version of… a lonely boy’s best version of his hero, which is really his dad,” referencing the fact that the film’s protagonist, a 10-year-old boy, is desperate to join Hitler’s ranks during World War II.
– As the Germans lose the war, the Nazi symbols on Jojo’s wall are covered by other symbols.
– Taika Watiti when asked said he wanted to recreate the character of Adolf Hitler as inaccurate as possible since, to paraphrase, “he was not worth doing accurate research on”.
– According to Taika Waititi the forest scenes were filmed in the Czech Republic, and it “was full of weird European bugs, and I was in a fat suit for the entire shoot.”
– After Jojo tries to stab Elsa, the bedroom wallpaper behind her gives her the appearance of wings and horns, matching Jojo’s cartoonish conception of Jews. She then walks away from them to comfort Jojo, a moment that destroys this conception.
– Elsa refers to Hitler as “pathetic little man who can’t even grow a full mustache”. Hitler actually had a full mustache until WW1 when he had to cut it back in order to wear a gas mask. This shorter version became his infamous mustache.
– The screenplay was written in 2011. That puts it in between Boy (2010) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014) in the chronology of Taika Waititi-penned films.
– During the final battle, several of the city’s defenders are shown using outdated or foreign guns. This is because Germany was running out of materials to make standard issue weapons by the end of the war, and had to arm their troops with whatever they could find.
– The Hitler Youth clones were played by the younger identical twin brothers of Roman Griffin Davis (who played Jojo) in order to streamline the CGI process.
– Stephen Merchant had never done accents before as an actor, so he worked with a voice coach until he was confident with his effort. He was still nervous performing, though, until day two of filming when he grew more comfortable with the cast around him.
– “There was a lot of time, just me chilling in Prague,” said Rebel Wilson (Fraulein Rahm), who was in the city for a month but only shot for seven days.
– While telling Jojo about the assassination attempt on him by Von Stauffenberg, the imaginary Hitler explains he survived because he had “Bombproof legs”. In reality, he was shielded by the thick legs of the table that the bomb was placed against.
– Finkel’s surname and his and Captain Klenzendorf’s scoffing at the possibility of identifying physical traits of Jews at the pool, hint at additional layers of resistance/subversion/hiding in plain sight, for their characters.
– Received an ‘A’ CinemaScore rating by first-weekend audiences.
– The Bund Deutscher Mädel in der Hitler-Jugend (League of German Girls or BDM) was the female branch of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend: HJ). The BDM was founded in 1930 that, at first, consisted of two sections of the Jungmädel (Young Girls League) for girls from 10 to 14 years of age and the League for Girls from 14 to 18 years of age. A third section was introduced in 1938, the BDM-WerK Glaube und Schönheit (BDM: Society for Belief and Beauty), a voluntary organization for young women between 17 and 21 years of age.
– When Elsa asks Rosie what being a woman is like, Rosie answers her and mentions taking up lovers in Morocco and making them suffer. This looks to be a reference to Casablanca (1942), where Ilsa had two lovers in Rick and Victor Laszlo who both suffered in different ways.
– Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson appeared in Iron Man 2 (2010) together.
– Uses the same composition numerous times to foreshadow “that scene” later in the film.
– Imaginary Hitler’s swan dive out the window is a nod to Danger 5 (2011).
– Several of the actors have played major characters in Marvel Movies. Scarlet Johansson was Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in multiple films; Taika Waititi (who also directed the film) is the character Korg in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame; Sam Rockwell is Justin Hammer in Iron Man Two; and Stephen Merchant played Caliban in the X-Men spin-off film, Logan.
– Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party (aka National Socialist German Workers Party) enacted a genocidal program deemed “The Final Solution” which involved the killing of six million Jews (about two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population) during World War II. Another 3 million Slavs, Poles, Roma (Gypsies) were similarly executed/exterminated.
Awards And Nominations
– Academy Awards – Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– BAFTA Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Screen Actors Guild Awards – Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture – Nominee
– Austin Film Critics Association – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Blogos de Oro – – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Won
– Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– CinEuphoria Awards – Best Ensemble – International Competition – Won
– CinEuphoria Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Columbus Film Critics Association – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Denver Film Critics Society – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Detroit Film Critics Society Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Faro Island Film Festiva – Favorite Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Florida Film Critics Circle Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Golden Schmoes Awards – Best Supporting Actress of the Year – Scarlett Johansson – Won
– Greater Western New York Film Critics Association Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Hawaii Film Critics Society – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Houston Film Critics Society Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– IGN Summer Movie Awards – Best Supporting Performer in a Movie – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Indiana Film Journalists Association, US – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Indiewire Critics’ Poll – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Iowa Film Critics Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Music City Film Critics’ Association Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– North Texas Film Critics Association – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Odyssey Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards – Best Body of Work – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Online Film & Television Association – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– SESC Film Festival, Brazil – Best Foreign Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Won
– St. Louis Film Critics Association, US – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards – Best Supporting Actress – Scarlett Johansson – Nominee
– Women’s Image Network Award – Actress Feature Film – Scarlett Johansson – Won
– The first time an American soldier is seen waving a flag from a balcony, it is one with 50 stars instead of 48. (A common mistake in WW2 films.) The error is later rectified by showing an American in a Jeep waving a correct 48-star flag.
– When Rosie Betzler brings Jojo to the Hitler Youth, there is a map hanging on the wall showing modern Germany instead of the Germany during the WW2-period; e.g., without Silesia or East Prussia.
– The Soviet soldier who catches JoJo wandering around the city shouts to him, “Niemiec!” [phonetic transcript] in modern Russian, while during WW2, and long after, the term “Giermaniec!” [phonetic transcript] was used in common language.
– At the end, the hand motions Jojo and Elsa use are more modern. Elsa’s are similar to the hand motions Emma Stone uses in La La Land when she lip syncs “I Ran.”
– It has already been mentioned that Hitler would have never offered cigarettes to Jojo because he was strictly against smoking. One may argue that this character is not the real Hitler but the imaginary friend living in Jojo’s head, so it’s just normal that he’s different from the real person. However, Hitler’s antagonism to smoking was almost as well-known in Nazi Germany as his mustache, and an avid fan of his would have never imagined him offering cigarettes.
– When Rosie and JoJo are eating dinner, JoJo taunts his mother and pulls the dish of bread to himself and takes a slice. The dish moves back and forth to its original spot with no bread removed.
– Jojo’s eyebrow with the scar changes from the eyebrow being shaved around the scar to not shaved and also in between these extremes.
– When Jojo first goes into the hidden place in Inga’s bedroom, he pulls a flashlight from his right pocket. However, in the previous shot (and when he first entered the house), the flashlight can be seen clipped to the back of his belt on the left-hand side.
– [Rosie and Jojo come upon six people hanging from a gallows in the town square]
Jojo Betzler: What did they do?
Rosie: They did what they could.
– Rosie: You’re growing up too fast. Ten-year-olds shouldn’t be celebrating war and talking politics. You should be climbing trees and then falling out of those trees.
JoJo Betzler: But the Führer says when we win, it is us, young boys who will rule the world.
Rosie: Pfft! The Reich is dying. We’re going to lose the war and then what are you going to do, hmm? Life is a gift. We must celebrate it. We have to dance to show God we are grateful to be alive.
Jojo Betzler: Well, I won’t dance. Dancing is for people who don’t have a job.
Rosie: Dancing is for people who are free. It’s an escape from all this.
– Jojo Betzler: I look stupid. People will stare.
Rosie: Enjoy the attention, kid. Not everyone is lucky enough to look stupid.
– Elsa Korr: I don’t know anything about being a woman. Is that what it is? You do things like drink wine?
Rosie: Sure. You drink. Champagne if you’re happy. Champagne, if you’re sad. You drive a car. Gamble if you want. Own diamonds. Learn how to fire a gun. You travel to Morocco. Take up lovers. Make them suffer. You look a tiger in the eye. And trust without fear. That’s what it is to be a woman.
– Rosie: [exasperated] Where are all the goddamned knives?
– Rosie: [Jojo has told her that he hears the ghost of his dead sister upstairs] You’ve lost your mind. It’s sadder for me though, because I have to live with a crazy person.
– Budget: $14,000,000 (estimated)
– Opening Weekend USA: $349,555, 20 October 2019
– Gross USA: $33,370,906
– Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $90,335,025
– Runtime: 1 hr 48 min (108 min)
– Sound Mix: Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos
– Color: Color
– Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
– Camera: Arri Alexa SXT, Hawk V-Lite, Leitz SUMMICRON-C, SUMMILUX-C and Vantage One Lenses
– Laboratory: Company 3 (digital intermediate)
– Negative Format: Codex
– Cinematographic Process: ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format) Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format) Dolby Vision Hawk Scope (anamorphic) (source format)
– Printed Film Format: DCP