Taika Waititi is returning (at least relatively speaking) to his indie roots with his next film, Next Goal Wins. An adaptation of the documentary by the same name, the movie tells the story of the American Samoa football (soccer) team's 31-0 loss to Australia in 2001, and the way that indignity helped shape a quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Michael Fassbender will play Dutch-born, America-based coach Thomas Rongen, who the football club brought on board to try and help them turn things around, and Will Arnett will play a soccer executive working at the Football Federation American Samoa, a role which was originally set to be portrayed by Armie Hammer.
Waititi broke into the mainstream in a big way with What We Do in the Shadows, and has since become one of the most beloved and acclaimed filmmakers in the world. He has alternated blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok with Oscar bait like Jojo Rabbit, and actually shot Next Goal Wins before he entered production on Thor: Love and Thunder. The pandemic and the need for Thor to hit a release date seemingly delayed the release of this film.
"It's the ultimate underdog story," Waititi told Empire magazine. And telling it in a new form had personal resonance for the filmmaker. "It taking place in Polynesia is very important to me, because it's my people. We stick together. It was like seeing myself up there, seeing my family up there, when I saw that documentary, which is so perfect in many ways. And to have a broader audiences have access to that story was one of my main goals. To bring our backyard to people, and to put brown faces on screen was a big deal for me. I just loved it."
Next Goal Wins will star Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Elisabeth Moss, David Fane, Beulah Koale, Oscar Kightley, Lehi Falepapalangi, and more. The movie will be produced by Andy Serkis, Jonathan Cavendish, Garrett Basch, Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, and Waititi, who wrote the project with Iain Morris. Imaginarium Productions, a digital performance-capture studio founded by Serkis and Cavendish in 2011, optioned the rights to Next Goal Wins. The original documentary was directed by Mike Brett and Steve Jamison back in 2014.
Are you excited to see Waititi take on the World Cup? Did you see the original documentary? Sound off below or hit up @russburlingame on Hive Social to talk all things Taika (except Green Lantern).