You have been making some of the funniest films that we have had the pleasure of enjoying in the cinema.
-Thank God. -But "Jojo Rabbit" is truly one of the strangest films people will go and watch, in an amazing way.
- Yeah. - How do you even begin to pitch to a studio, "Hey, guys, I'm gonna make a movie about a young boy who's growing up in Nazi Germany, and his imaginary friend is Hitler."
You say, "Hey, guys," and then you stop there.
That's pretty much it.
It was a very hard film to pitch.
"Oh, uh, so, it's a film about a young boy in the Hitler Youth."
Most people are, "Mm, that's enough for me."
- I ended up having to write the script and let that do all the talking for me with this. - Right.
It is a very hard thing to pitch 'cause tonally, it shifts around quite a lot.
There's a lot of comedy, and drama, and tragedy, and it is a real mix.
-You can't kind of pick one. -Right, yeah. It really...
It really is sharp in a satirical voice, as well because, you know, you're commenting on something that we all know happened.
But what's really interesting is you're commenting on something that I think a lot of people don't talk enough about today in the world, and that is how we are conditioned from the time we're children.
-Yeah. -You see this little child who is born in Nazi Germany, and he is only taught to be a Nazi.
And we like him because we sort of understand that he had no other choice.
And we see the conflict that he has with being a Nazi and then, like, his mother going like, "No, you can be a good person."
Yeah, that's right, and when children were indoctrinated into the Hitler Youth, um, the first lesson they were taught was to rebel against your parents.
"Don't listen to your parents and what they try and tell you."
"Listen to us. You know, we... "Hitler is now your father, and listen to us, and listen to, you know, your teachers."
Um, and, so, if a parent in those times...
- If you, you know, if you wanted to try and convince your child, "Don't be a Nazi," uh, it was a very, it was a very dangerous thing to do. -Right.
You know, 'cause they would say, "If your parents, uh, you know, if they, if they judge us or if they criticize the party, tell us, and we'll take care of that."
-"We'll take care of your parents." -Yeah.
- Right. - And you see that in the story.
And I really wish I could explain to people.
I don't want to give anything away, but it's, like... It really is, It is a weird movie in that, like, you're laughing, and then you're sad, and then you're angry.
And then there's moments where you're like, "This feels like what's happening today."
-Yeah. -You know? You feel people who are radicalized, and you go, "Why do you have this hate, or "Why do you feel the way you do?"
And they're like, "Well, that's all I've known."
Isn't it weird that in 2019, someone still has to make a movie trying to explain to people not to be a Nazi?
Was it ever awkward for you, like, looking in the mirror?
I mean, like, did your family say anything?
Because, I mean, you know, you...
Well, my mother came to visit set, and we were shooting in Prague...
- 'Cause a lot of people don't know this about you, but you're Jewish. -Yeah.
And, like, like, like, you have Jewish family, and that makes it okay.
Well, what I'm saying, like, that makes it more awkward, I think, is that, like..
It makes it more... Oh, for sure.
- And it... - So, like, your family is just like, "Wait, so you're gonna... you're gonna be Hitler?"
There's double the guilt going on.
So, I, uh...
No, I put the costume on for the first time.
On paper, it's simply, "This is gonna be a great idea."
Uh, then you put it all on.
You put the ridiculous mustache on, and you look in the mirror, and, I mean, really, the main word to describe it all is "embarrassed."
-Oh, that's right. I was embarrassed. -Right.
And... but imagine trying to, uh, to direct people dressed like that.
You know, 'cause, you know, like, you go through, you go through most of your day, you know, you don't really remember what you look like.
And I was like, I'll be directing people, "Hey, that's really good. Um, that was really good, Scarlett."
"So, look, why don't we just try to do another one where you go over there."
And you can see, like, she's there going...
And I would catch a little glimpse of myself in a reflection and realize, "Oh, my God. That's right. I'm dressed like this guy."
- Yes, you are... - And, so, then I said, "So, you don't have to do what I say. I'm not..."
"That's not an order. I'm not tell..."
"I'm not... I'm not forcing you to do that."
"This is... It's your choice."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're a free person."
"You know, 2019. You do what you want. -"
"Hey, I'm not directing. I'm suggesting."
"I'm not directing, I'm suggesting."
-"You do it." -"A suggestion. It's the power of suggestion."
Um, you have a really stellar cast.
I mean, the young man who we see there playing Jojo the Rabbit, he's phenomenal.
And, I mean, yoike, all these young kids in the movie are so amazing in playing the story.
And then you have Scarlett Johansson, who's also phenomenal as the mom in the story.
Why did you choose to center the story around the kids?
Because it's not a story told through the lens of the adults.
-The adults are in the story, but it is really through the lens of children. -Yeah. -Why?
Well, I've never really seen films set, uh, with, uh, with a backdrop of conflict or wars really from a child's point of view.
And I really wanted to explore that, uh, that world.
And I've worked with a lot of kids in my films.
Like, a lot of my films, uh, you know, they deal with, you know, young boys with dad issues.
Yeah, but, so, I've always worked with these kids.
And the boy plays Jojo, Roman Griffin Davis, incredibly beautiful, sensitive young guy who, um, who really carries the film and really saved me from embarrassment.
I think there's nothing to be embarrassed about.
It's truly one of the most original, funny, fantastic films I've watched in a very long time.
-Thank you very much for being on the show. -Thank you.
Thank you for making the movie, for real.
"Jojo Rabbit" opens in select cities October 18 and will be in theaters nationwide very soon.