Many actors have played Hitler in the movies. Charles Chaplin played a thinly-veiled lampoon, name of Adenoid Hynkel, in 1940’s The Great Dictator, before most of the world thought it cool to speak ill of him. The late, great Swiss actor Bruno Ganz took on das Fuhrer in Downfall — a turn that went viral when a scene from the film was reborn as the beloved “Angry Hitler” YouTube meme. Surely it’s an intense role to play, traumatizing on many levels. Just ask Taika Waititi, who plays a deeply, proudly inauthentic take on the Nazi leader in his forthcoming satire Jojo Rabbit.
The actor, writer, and filmmaker has been doing the rounds for his latest — currently premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival and due in theaters on October 18 — and he sat down with Entertainment Weekly to talk about the unpleasant side of making a movie where one has to dress up as the 20th century’s most destructive monster.
“It annoyed me a lot catching my reflection in the mirror and seeing myself,” Waititi confessed. “I felt so ridiculous and it did look ridiculous.”
Previously, Waititi has spoken of the delight of being a “Polynesian Jew” playing Adolf Hitler, and the trailers show him leaning hard into a delightfully disrespectful take. Still, clearly it wasn’t all laughs.
At least he wasn’t stuck playing a serious Adolf. “I didn’t want to portray Hitler in an authentic way,” he told EW. Lucky for him he was playing the figment of a German kid’s imagination. “I was not prepared to go that deep. Also, because he’s an imaginary friend, he’s conjured by the mind of a 10-year-old boy, so he is a 10-year-old.”
You’ll be able to see how the director of Thor: Ragnarok fared when Jojo Rabbit — which also features Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Scarlett Johansson — hits theaters in just over a month.