Taika Waititi writes and directs Eagle vs Shark, about Lily (Loren Horsley) and Jarrod (Gemaine Clement), two social misfits who gradually fall in love while Jarrod sets out to fight a bully (Taika Waititi) from his childhood. This marks Taika Waititi's feature film directorial debut. He has previously written and directed short films with Gemaine Clement and Loren Horsley, such as Futile Attraction and Heinous Crime. Gemaine Clement is the star on the TV series "Flight of the Conchord" which will debut on HBO on Sunday, June 17th @ 10:30 PM.
Miramax Films will release Eagle vs Shark on June 15th, 2007 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What inspired you to make Eagle vs Shark?
TW: Loren’s character, [Lily], came first and that was really the reason for making the film. I just wanted to make a movie with her and she wanted to play a different kind of female protagonist—somebody who’s not that confident and bubbly and really good-looking. The story got built around that character.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like to direct your first feature film?
TW: I always say that this is my second film, but I just made it first because the next film I do will probably be more accessible. It’s the one that everyone expects me to make. For me, this was something that I could experiment a lot more and make mistakes and learn how to make a feature film with a low budget. There was no pressure or people on my back trying to make changes to my film. It was an experiment which paid off now.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was your biggest challenge while filming?
TW: Just the time element. I had to have a mullet for a month. [laughs] The shoot was for 25 days. Originally, I thought it would be great just to make a film really fast. Then I realized that I care a lot more about the film when I was editing it and wanted to take more time. During shooting, if we had the chance, we would have improvised more, but, as a result of having not enough time, we just stuck to the script.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did the Sundance lab help you?
TW: The chance to get into the lab is probably what motivated me to finish the script. It was great because Loren Horsley was already attached to the film. The filmmaking part was made in three weeks. There were smart people coming in who knew a lot about film. The only reason why they’re really there is to help you find a tone or the right way to tell the story.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Where did you filming take place?
TW: In a place called Titahi Bay in Wellington, New Zealand.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Why aren’t there more films coming out of New Zealand?
TW: We don’t have that much money.
LH: There aren’t too many great films when you have only four million people living in the entire country.
TW: When you’re there, it seems like everybody’s making them, [though].
NYC MOVIE GURU: Jemaine, how did you meet Taika?
JC: Taika and I met through comedy.
TW: We first met during a sketch comedy show in college.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Describe a scene that never made it to the film.
LH: There’s a big, sort of, Ingmar Bergman-inspired dream sequence which [never made it into the film].
TW: It’ll never be on the DVD's [deleted scenes, either].
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think most audiences like or dislike the character of Jarrod?
TW: You either like him or you absolutely hate him. But he is the character in all the other romantic comedies that gets left for Ben Affleck. It’s not often that those characters get represented or a chance to be redeemed or a chance to [understand] them. That’s what I really liked about the character.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think people can relate to the characters in Eagle vs Shark?
TW: Sometimes there’s a bit of contempt for them. But I feel that there’s more of an emotional connection for people here. They’re just extreme versions of ourselves.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Are any of the scenes or characters based on your own experiences?
TW: A lot of the situations actually happened. I was visiting a friend who was showing to me something on his computer and a lot of porn popped up. That was very embarrassing for both of us. [As for] Jarrod’s nephew [in Eagle vs Shark], I met him at a family dinner and he sat around playing guitar for everyone during dinner and I thought, “Wow, what an amazing kid!” I wrote the character based on him and then I cast him—he just so perfect the way he was.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What performances inspired you for your role of Lily?
LH: The performances that really inspired me were Gelsomina from La Strada and the Emily Watson character from Breaking the Waves. I wanted to play a character that had vulnerability and strength.
TW: It was important to us that when she gets beautiful, it’s internal—she doesn’t have a make-over and take off her glasses.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about all the comparisons of Eagle vs Shark to Napoleon Dynamite?
TW: I don’t mind it. It’s always going to be compared to that because it was the last “nerd film” to come out and it did really well. It could be compared to worst things. I’d compare this film to Australian comedies, such as, The Castle. I think Australians and New Zealanders share the same sense of humor. Another film is Love Serenade, which I was thinking about subconsciously while making the film.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Any chances for a sequel?
TW: Yea, Jemaine wants to do one called Eagle Marries Shark. I wanted to do a third one called Eagle Murders Shark. [laughs]