Matt's Blog


My Interview With Taika Waititi, Director Of Boy


 Taika Waititi With Matthew Toomey


A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to sit down with New Zealand director Taika Waititi and talk about his new film Boy.  It’s become the highest grossing local film in New Zealand history and is now getting a release in Australia.  Taika was a very down to earth guy and great to speak with.  Here’s how it went down…


Matt:  We’ll start with your background.  You’ve had quite an interesting start to your career.  You’re only two years older than myself and I’m sort of jealous that you’re already so successful in the film world.  How’d you get started?  When does the interest come from for film?


Taika:  I’ve actually only been doing film for about 5 or 6 years.  My background is in painting and visual art.  I’ve basically done that since I was a kid.  Along the way, I was encouraged by parents to do creative stuff.  My dad’s a painter and my mother’s a school teacher and a writer.  Right from an early age, I was encouraged to do that sort of stuff.  Filmmaking was something I hadn’t tried out and I wanted to give it a go.  I’d acted in some films and on television and I was interested in what the director was up to with the “behind the scenes” stuff.


I remember one day watching something with a TV show I was on and I thought “I could do that better than you.”  I didn’t say it out loud but I went off and started writing my own stuff.  It started off as dialogue between some kids in a situation involving them for their parents to come out of a pub.  I wrote this piece which I thought might end up being a theatre piece – a little one act play.  I sent it to a friend of mine who said “hey, you should make this into a short film”.  I thought I’d give it a go and I found that I really loved the experience.  The film did phenomenally well and was nominated for an Oscar.


Next thing, I was being encouraged to keep doing film stuff.  I was hesitant at first.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this as a job.  I then made another short film which did incredibly well.  I finally kind of gave in and thought it would be a good job.  I never really had a proper job before that and I hadn’t stuck with something so long.  It’s a good job, a great job.


Matt:  You’re doing pretty well for yourself, so far anyway.  You mentioned that you were nominated for an Academy Award for the short film Two Cars, One Night.  Did you find that opened up a lot of doors for you?


Taika:  Absolutely.  It led me to making my first feature in New Zealand which got fast tracked.  A lot of people get put into “development hell” trying to make their first feature but I had the benefit of being nominated for an Oscar and then by October that year, I was shooting my first feature.


Matt:  This is Eagle Vs Shark.  It was a real cult hit.  Did that surprise you how well it took off?


Taika:  It did actually and I was really happy with that.  There was a certain expectation I was going to do a Mauri-style film because my short films dealt with those themes.  I wanted to move away from that and the expectations and make something that was more awkward and which stemmed from my comedy background more than my theatre background.  I loved the experience.


I wrote the script for Boy before I wrote Eagle Vs. Shark.  It was actually the first script that I wrote.  I took it to the Sundance Writer’s Lab in 2005 and workshopped it for a couple of weeks.  I then took a break from it.  I felt so strongly about the script and I thought this would be my most important film in stepping onto the filmmaking scene.  I thought I owed to the film to be a good director.  I had no idea how to make a feature film and I can’t just stumble into this and hope for the best.


So I decided to take a break from it and go and make Eagle Vs. Shark.  I wrote that and made it really just to learn how to make a film.  It was to test myself.  Some people can make the transition from short story writing to novel-ing.  Some people can do it and some people can’t.  Some people can make a short film and then massacre a feature film.  I wasn’t sure which I was.  I made Eagle Vs. Shark and I learned from that.  I made a few mistakes, stumbled a bit but the point was to take a risk with something which could handle the bumps and learn the craft of making a feature.


Matt:  Well you learned well considering how many people loved Eagle Vs. Shark.


Taika:  It was fantastic.  It was such a small, delicate little film and people loved it.  It was really encouraging.  I realised there was an audience for this kind of film that has a mixture of tone.  It’s not just broad comedy but there’s some sad bits, some beautiful bits in it.  I think that’s turned out to be my sensibility – mixing up tones.  I took that into Boy and it shares a similar feeling I think.  It’s got this nice, haunting soundtrack by the Phoenix Foundation.  It uses animation but not for comedy or fun but more to highlight some truths that are going on in the kid’s heads.


Matt:  Who did those drawings in the film?


Taika:  Me.  I did those.


Matt:  We should talk about the film because that’s why we’re here.  You’re the director of the film, you’re the writer of the film and you’re one of the stars of the film.  I’ve never had the chance to speak to Woody Allen because I know he does that so well.  How do you juggle all those roles while going through the process?


Taika:  It takes a little getting used to.  The first week we were shooting when I was acting for the in the film was a little bit of a juggling act.  I was trying to re-write scenes on set while figuring out how we were going to shoot the thing and then think about how to say the lines.  Eventually, we worked out a system where I would “block” the scene and then get a stand-in so I could see how it would look.  I’d then kick everyone out and then figure out what I had to do and shoot out.  We got into a routine where it all kind of worked.  By the second week, I knew the character really well and knew how to “fall into the character” quite quickly.  It was quite easy in the end.


Matt:  I’m getting the impression you like spending more time behind the camera than in front of the camera?


Taika:  Yeah, I think I am a better filmmaker than an actor.  Having said that, acting is something I’m more experienced at.  I still love it and the fun aspects of acting.  I’m not the kind of guy who wants to do the “method thing” and take it really seriously.  Like, lose 100 pounds to convince people that I’m skinny and that I’m a “real actor”.  I want to keep doing it but I don’t really have time to commit to acting in other people’s things.  If I feel like acting, I think I’ll just put myself in my own stuff.


Matt:  We’ll tell people a little about the film.  The central character is an 11 year old kid named Boy.  He lives with his grandmother and his younger brother, Rocky.  His mother passed away a few ago and his dad hasn’t been around.  He’s at a very impressionable age, looking for a bit of guidance and then wham – your character, the father, returns out of the blue.  It’s an interesting character - he’s cool, he’s funny, he’s laid-back but I think he’s just as immature as the 11 year old.  Where’d you come up with this character?


Taika:  He’s really a mixture of men that I know.  There are elements of myself in there.  I just think that men in general don’t grow up.  We pretend very well but I don’t think we’re that mature in general.  I tried to take all the fun, eccentric elements of people that I know and things I find interesting to look at in characters.  I cobbled them together and wanted someone who feels so unpredictable that it’s fun to watch them but you know that underneath is a deeper problem, a serious problem.  There’s some stuff he’s not dealing with and his only way of trying to deal with it is to act like a kid and keep believing his own myths that he’s putting out there.


What’s interesting is the story is about this kid who doesn’t know his dad and as a result, the only way he can feel like that he knows his dad is to make up fantasies about him.  So he’s always fantasising that his dad is off having adventures around the world and doing these incredible things.  When the dad arrives, we all know that the dad’s not going to be the same as a kid’s fantasies.  But then the dad starts perpetuating these myths as well by believing he’s a samurai warrior and he’s starting a new gang.  He’s got this romantic idea about who he is and that he’s some sort of outlaw who is on the run all the time.  That’s what compounds the situation.  Both of them are living in this fantasy about who the dad is.


His younger brother, Rocky, is also trying to understand who the dad is.  So you’ve got this weird triangle between the two brothers and the dad and the shifting of allegiances.  In the beginning of the film, Boy is obsessed with the father and doesn’t really think about his mother that much.  Rocky is obsessed by the mother and doesn’t really want to know the father.  By the end of the film, those alliances change a little bit and that creates more of a balance.  People start getting “real”.


Boy knows who his dad is by the end of the film.  We all know that’s going to happen – that he’s going to have a dose of reality and come to the realisation that his dad isn’t who he thinks he is.  But at the end he still makes up fantasies about him.  I think that’s an important thing – it’s ok to make up fantasies about people if you know the truth.  I still make up stories about my parents and in my mind, imagining them as far more amazing than they are.


Matt:  You’ve spoken about Boy and Rocky.  Every time I see films with young actors, I’m so amazed and wonder where they find these people.  Was it a tough process trying to find the two kids?


Taika:  Yeah.  The kids actually came from the same area around the coast.  We wanted local kids so it would feel authentic.  We didn’t want a “city kid” to pretend to be from the country.  But it’s not a place where many kids get to do any acting so we knew that none of the kids had acted before – it was their first time.


We wanted someone who was going to be natural.  You can always tell when a kid is acting especially when they’ve acted before.  These kids were so natural and so very real that it’s actually shocking to watch how good they are.


Matt:  I think the audiences are going to fall in love with them.  The 80s setting I have to ask about.  Especially the clothing – it’s so daggy.  Why the 80s setting?


Taika:  Well I don’t really know what kids are into these days and I don’t particularly care for the latest fashions and I don’t really care too much for the music of today.  But I really like the 80s aesthetic and I like how the 80s were a coming of age time for New Zealand.  We had this flood of American culture coming through which threatened to take over our Mauri culture as well.


Then, you’ve got someone like Michael Jackson who epitomises that period for me.  As a kid, this was a hero who was not only the greatest entertainer in the world, but he was also super-rich and spending his money on stuff that kids find cool.  He lives in a castle surrounded by zoo animals and he’s got Pepsi on tap.  It was a time of disgusting excess where being a kid growing up in a really poor area of the country where you have nothing, you see this “world” by watching Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous on TV and that’s what you aspire to, it’s what you want.  That’s basically the environment.


You’re in the middle of nowhere with nothing but all you can think about is owning a Lamborghini.  It’s so strange that your world is surrounded by that stuff but you’ve got no tangible evidence of it even existing in real life.  I didn’t see a real Lamborghini until I was 17 or something. 


Matt:  The film was an enormous smash hit in New Zealand.  I think it was number 1 at the box-office for 4 weeks beating all the other American films that had come out.  The public really took to it.  Then it became the number 1 grossing local film in New Zealand history.  That’s just fantastic.  Has it been difficult releasing to try to release the film overseas, like here in Australia?


Taika:  A little bit, yeah.  With the current financial climate, it makes it very difficult to sell a film like this.  I think there is a market here in Australia and I know that people here will “get it”.  Internationally, I think audiences will love it but the problem is finding someone who can figure out a way of marketing it to America.  It’s a big risk to try and put a film out like this.  At the moment, people are flocking to see films like Avatar and Inception – any film that takes out of reality because reality is not so great.  When you go to the movies , if you get the chance to go to another planet for 3 hours in 3-D, that’s what people are going to spend their money on.  It’s very difficult but I know there is an audience for the film and so we’ll see.


Matt:  Looking forward, I believe you’ve been working on Green Lantern which is a big super-dooper blockbuster.  Was it a cool experience?


Taika:  It was amazing.  It was really cool coming from my filmmaking background.  I’d never seen a set as big as Green Lantern and there were hundreds of people working on this thing.  It was amazing for me to see how it’s done.  I’ve always been amazed by big movies and how they make them – the organisation and the disorganisation.


Matt:  Do you think as a director when you’re on the set?


Taika:  Yeah.  I spent most of my time watching what was going on with a director’s eye.  As an actor, I can’t say I was really “acting” – I was more just standing in front of camera with words coming out of my mouth.  I didn’t do any action stuff.  My character is pretty normal – an every day guy, a tech geek.  I didn’t get to fly around or anything.


Matt:  I look forward to seeing it when it comes out next year but right now, everyone can check out Boy.  Thank you very much for joining me.


Taika:  Thanks.  Cheers.


Chatting With Patricia Clarkson About Cairo Time


I’ve reviewed close to 3,000 films on my website but this week, I’ve got another Film Pie first.  I was lucky enough to score an interview with Academy Award nominee Patricia Clarkson, who has appeared in films such as The Green Mile, The Station Agent, Pieces Of April and Good Night & Good Luck.  It was a special opportunity so I needed to make the most of it.  For the very first time, I'm reviewing a film with one of its stars listening down the telephone line.  Here’s how it went (with 612ABC’s Spencer Howson offering a few comments at the very end)…


Matt:  I can’t help but be excited this morning because I have a very special guest.  I’ve never been to the Oscars myself but I think is about as close as I’m going to get.  I’m speaking with an Academy Award nominee.  She was nominated in 2004 for her performance in Pieces Of April.  I say a very good morning to Patricia Clarkson.


Patricia:  Hello, hello.  Yes, I’ve still got my Oscar dress on from 2004.


Matt:  We’re here of course to talk about your interesting new film which has just come out but I want to talk about your background a little bit.  If I was an actor, I’d love to have your resume – films like Shutter Island, Elegy, Good Night & Good Luck, The Station Agent, Far From Heaven and The Green Mile.  You’ve got to let us in on the secret.  How do you keep picking these great roles?


Patricia:  I guess I’m drawn to the story first.  I do want to play a great part but as great as a part can be, you have to live within an entire movie.  So I am first drawn to a script, a movie, a project that moves me in some way – comedically or dramatically.  Maybe I have a little bit of luck on my side which you always need in this business because so much of it is serendipitous.  I’m lucky that great directors come to me… but I’m knocking wood as I say that because I’m very superstitious.  So I’ve just been fortunate that wonderful people have brought me their movies and have asked me to be in their movies... and I’m smart enough to say “yes”.


Matt:  Well I think you’ve made a lot of great choice.  You’ve been in the business for over 20 years now and it must be something that you love doing because you keep doing it.  What is it that you love most about the profession?  What keeps driving you as an actor?


Patricia:  What I’ve always loved since the time I started acting when I was 12 or 13 in junior high school.  I love the creative process.  I love that it’s a communal effort.  I love finding a character.  I love meeting different people – people that you’ve never met in your life who come from different lives and backgrounds.  You develop a bond for the love of creating something that’s meaningful.


Matt:  My day job is as an accountant and I love having this life outside of work where I can go and see all these movies.  As an actor, is it the flip-side of that?  If you spend all your day acting, do you have time to go and watch a lot of movies outside of what you do?


Patricia:  I probably don’t see as many movies as I should.  I see films movies that my friends are in.  I’ll go to their premieres or I’ll go pay and see it when it comes out.  I’ll see films that I hear are fantastic – I’m not going to miss a great film.  But I don’t go as often as I should.  I work a lot and sometimes when I have a night off… like tonight… I’m doing interviews to Australia!  Often I like to just have a quiet dinner and relax.


Matt:  So do you like getting out to the cinemas or do you prefer lying on the couch watching a DVD?


Patricia:  I don’t like to watch DVDs.  I much prefer to be in the theatre.  I will first and foremost try to see a movie in a movie theatre because it’s a completely different experience.  One that I value obviously as it’s my livelihood.


Matt:  Are you caught up in the 3D craze?  Do you think it’s a fad or something that’s here to stay?


Patricia:  Maybe at some point in my life I’ll be in a 3D movie and I’ll be all excited about it.  It’s beautiful but it gives me a bit of a woozy feeling.


Matt:  Do you actually read reviews yourself Patricia for the films that you’re in?


Patricia:   No.  I try not to so the fact that I have to listen to an oral review coming at me… (laughs).  It’s fine.


Matt:  Ok, we’ll keep it delicate.  In this film Cairo Time, you’re playing Juliette – she’s a magazine editor in her 50s, she’s gone to Cairo to meet up with her husband who has been working in Gaza for the UN.  When she gets to Cairo her husband has been delayed and she’s waiting in the hotel room on her own.  I must say it’s a beautiful hotel room.  Were you staying in something like that?


Patricia:   It’s somewhat similar.  Yes, we shot at the Shepherd’s Hotel and we stayed there.  We got a deal which is what we needed seeing as this was a small budget film.


Matt:  I loved that scene where you’re sitting out on the balcony for the first time admiring the view of Cairo.  It’s just a beautiful city.


Patricia:  Yes, it’s a breathtaking city.


Matt:  You’re couped up in the hotel room and your character is going a bit stir-crazy.  You step out onto the streets of Cairo to have a look around and I’ve never been to Egypt myself (it’s on my bucket list) but was that your first trip?  Have you been there before?


Patricia:  This was my first trip to the Middle East.  I must say that it delivered.  Cairo packs a punch in many, many ways… in unexpected ways.  It was a life changing experience for me this whole project.  Shooting this movie, being in Cairo, being the lead of this film and working every single day.  It was rigorous.  It was quite a journey.


Matt:  There’s a moment in the film where you’re walking and a group of guys are following you and they’re leering at you.  One of them even touches you.  You manage to escape by popping into a store and it’s quite a striking moment in the film.  Was it actually like that in Egypt?


Patricia:  There is an element of that absolutely.  It’s not overrun by fundamentalists but it’s a male driven society.  You do have to be careful as a Western-looking woman walking the streets with my blond hair.  I had to be careful and I had a fairly similar event happen about three days into Cairo.   I never went anywhere alone again.  It’s just in certain parts and certain sections, not everywhere in Cairo, just certain places.  They do love women of any age.


Matt:  In the film you strike up a friendship with one of your husband’s former colleagues – he’s an Egyptian local named Tariq.  You go out and see the sights and there’s something that develops between the two of you.  It’s not like a traditional Hollywood type relationship as in let’s kiss, off the bedroom, passionate love affair and that sort of stuff.  It’s a really subtle relationship.  How would you describe what happens between Juliette and Tariq?


Patricia:  It is restrained.  Not just because of their cultures and customs.  I think it’s restrained because of who they are as people and what is at stake.  I think they’re honourable people but very sexy!


Matt:  There’s a beautiful scene late in the film where you’re at the pyramids and the camera is looking up with the pyramids behind while you’re sitting on one of the great stones.  That must have been pretty surreal?


Patricia:  Yes and it’s real.  There’s no CGI in the film except for a little scene on a train but everything else in this film is exactly as it was.  When I was telling friends I was in Cairo they were asking if I’d seen the pyramids.  Did I see the pyramids?  I sat on the pyramids!  I hugged the pyramids!  Everything is very real and every location was a real location.  Nothing was created or modified and I think it’s an honourable part of the film. 


Matt:  Well I think it’s a really good film.  I was a worried at first when it was a little bit slow to start.  There’s a large focus on the city.  But the focus then turns to Juliette and by the final act of the film, I really enjoyed the interaction between Juliette and Tariq.  There’s not a lot of dialogue.  I’m giving this the thumbs up and will give it a B+.


Patricia:  Oh good.  Ok, ok.  (breathes sigh of relief)


Matt:  Does that mean you’re going to give it an A, Patricia?


Patricia:  Of course I give it an A (laughs).  But a thumbs up and a B+ is a very good thing.  I’m thrilled with that.


Spencer:  That must have been terrifying for you?  Like sitting there with the headmaster or something?


Patricia:  Yes, a little bit.  But it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I survived it.  (laughs)


Matt:  Thanks Patricia.


Patricia:  Thank-you so much guys.  You guys are fun!  Take care.

Celebrating The 30th Anniversary Of Caddyshack


It’s taken four weeks but finally, Inception has been defeated at the U.S. box-office.  The new Will Ferrell / Mark Whalberg comedy, The Other Guys, took the honours in the number one position with $35m.  It may sound hard to believe but both Ferrell and Whalberg will be at Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast next Wednesday for the Australian premiere.  I’m tempted to seek media accreditation but I think every man and his dog will be after the same thing.


The good news is that I’ll be interviewing a few interesting film folk over the next three weeks.  I’ll be sharing everything through my blog so keep your eyes peeled.


I’ve only just returned home from the Brisbane preview of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World which I loved immensely.  It did something that’s very hard to do – it got me to remove my critic’s hat.  There were parts during the movie where I thought to myself “hmmmm, I really should be critical of some things” but I had so much fun that I couldn’t resist going along for the ride.  I haven’t had a chance to write up my full review as yet but it’ll be on my website in the next few days.


Those who know me will realise that two things I am very passionate about are golf and movies.  My love of movies is evident.  As for golf, I have a scratch handicap and manage the Queensland Colts golf team.  It’s a chance to satisfy my competitive urges – something that the film world doesn’t allow.


On 25 July 1980, Caddyshack was released in U.S. cinemas.  It came out in Australia four weeks later.  For me, it’s one of my all time favourite comedies as it combines my love for both golf and film.


Given it’s 30th anniversary, I thought I’d go through some of my favourite quotes from the movie.  If you haven’t seen the film, these will probably mean very little.  All I can say is to seek the film out at your local video store.  If you have seen the film, then hopefully these quotes will bring back happy memories.  Enjoy!



Al Czervik: [to his Asian companion] I hear this place is restricted, Wang, so don't tell 'em you're Jewish, okay?


Danny Noonan: I haven't even told my father about the scholarship I didn't get. I'm gonna end up working in a lumberyard the rest of my life.

Ty Webb: What's wrong with lumber? I own two lumberyards.

Danny Noonan: I notice you don't spend too much time there.

Ty Webb: I'm not quite sure where they are.


Al Czervik: Last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it.


Al Czervik: Oh, this your wife, huh? A lovely lady. Hey baby, you must've been something before electricity.


Al Czervik: Hey, doll. Could you scare up another round for our table over here? And tell the cook this is low grade dog food. I've had better food at the ballgame, you know? This steak still has marks from where the jockey was hitting it.


Carl Spackler: This is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 36 holes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.


Ty Webb: You take drugs, Danny?

Danny Noonan: Every day.

Ty Webb: Good. Then what's your problem?

Danny Noonan: I don't know.


Ty Webb: You're rather attractive for a beautiful girl with a great body.


Judge Smails: I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.


Al Czervik: [breaks wind at a dinner] Whoa, did somebody step on a duck?


Ty Webb: Remember Danny - Two wrongs don't make a right but three rights make a left.


Dr. Beeper: I thought you'd be the man to beat this year.

Ty Webb: I guess you'll just have to keep beating yourself.


Where Have All The Movies Gone? A Quiet Year So Far


Where Have All The Movies Gone?


When I wrote my review this week for The Special Relationship, I realised just how quiet this year has been at the movies.  In the first 6 months of the year, just 96 films were released in Brisbane cinemas.  Over the same period of time, I’d seen 109 films in 2009 and 117 in 2008.  I had to go as far back as 2003 to find a quieter year – just 93 films in all.


I try to see every movie that’s showing.  Maybe I’m an obsessive compulsive but I like to give every film a chance and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.  An example from this week would be Step 3D – definitely better than I thought it’d be.  What I’m trying to say is that maybe I should be taking 2010 as a blessing.  With 21 less films than in 2008, that’s about 42 hours that I’ve been able to spend on other things.  Don’t ask me what those things are.  The time has slipped away too quickly.


But I’m left asking myself… why the shortfall in movies?


My initial reaction is that we’ve been inundated with blockbusters and cinema owners are a little risk averse when it comes to trying smaller films.   When you see the numbers thrown up by films like Inception, Twilight and Toy Story 3, it makes sense.  These films have been huge.  People flock to them on opening weekend and there are many sold out sessions.  They are taking up a bigger slice of the screens at big multiplexes such as Event Cinemas.


With all the marketing and hype for the blockbusters, it’s almost impossible to market other films.  Films that struggled to find an audience in the US and the UK aren’t finding their way to Australia (many are going straight to video instead).


What’s also interesting is that cinemas like the Palace and the Dendy (often synonymous with independent cinema) are showing more and more commercial product.  At the Dendy this week, you can see Killers, Inception, Knight & Day and Step Up 3D.  At the Palace Barracks, you can see the same four films.  Yes, they do show a few smaller films (which is great) but are they showing as many as they once did?  I can’t confirm that for sure but I’ve got a hunch (based on the numbers mentioned above).  I can’t really blame them either – it’s great to create a niche market but it’s hard to turn away the large percentage of the public who are prepared to pay to see films like Killers and Step Up 3D.


I’m not really making a point.  It’s more of an observation.  I’m not sure if I want to see more movies in cinemas.  It would be great to have more variety but perhaps that’s not possible – both in terms of quality and commerciality.  I’m going to be following the trend over the next few months to see if it starts to turn back around.  I might also pose the question to a few cinema owners if I get the chance.


Other News


To quickly race through other news, the Palace Centro and Palace Barracks in Brisbane now have their own Twitter feed.  You can find out about special events by following them right here -


Inception is still powering on at the box-office.  It’s been number 1 in the United States for three consecutive weeks and has now taken $193.3m.  Here in Australia, it also held up well in its second week with just a 19% drop-off.  It’s posted $16.3m over its first 11 days.  Great to see.  I'm also enjoying the hits on my Inception review through the Rotten Tomatoes website - over 3,700 and still counting!  Some good publicity for The Film Pie.