The cast of NEXT GOAL WINS. Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved

Taika Waititi Reveals His Sports Comedy Inspiration for ‘Next Goal Wins’

Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins tells the true story of the American Samoa football team that is infamous for their loss against Australia. Making history for the defeat, the team was the subject of a documentary of the same name, eventually coming back for a win to make up for it.

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Taika Waititi directed the new fictionalized film and co-wrote it with Iain Morris, and I spoke with Waititi about the inspiration behind the film. While talking with him and Jaiyah Saelua (who was on the American Samoa team), I asked Waititi what drew him to the story in the first place and made him want to tackle telling this story in a sports comedy genre, like Cool Runnings.

“I grew up on all those films and uplifting underdog stories. Cool Runnings was definitely a touchstone and when making this. It was hard for me because I just wanted to include all of those old elements of sports films that I loved so much,” Waititi said. “I think even in the end of the film, there’s a freeze frame, like at the end of Karate Kid like that freeze frame and so those things were important to me because my main focus making this film was just to be happy. The theme of the film as well. I’d just come off, I think this was maybe my sixth, seventh film. And, I just like finished Thor and Jojo and I approached those films in a more rigid kind of way, I’d say. And I just felt at the stage I was trying to embrace this idea of not trying to control everything around me and just trying to let go, which is what Thomas needs to do in the film. It’s just let go and just be here in the moment. And somehow work that into a sports film. I always loved sports films, but I’ve never had any intention of making one until I saw the doc.”

You can see our full conversation here:

Next Goal Wins is in theaters now!

(featured image: Searchlight Pictures)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.