"It had everything that I require when I go to make a film," Taika Waititi tells Total Film in the new issue of the magazine, featuring Oppenheimer on the cover, while discussing his upcoming film, Next Goal Wins. "I describe it as Cool Runnings in the Pacific. Cool Runnings with football!"
Indeed, this true story about the American Samoa soccer team bears comparison to the Jamaican bobsleigh classic. "I just wanted to do a sports film," he continues. "I’d never done one before. I love sports movies. And I love underdog stories. Most of my films are about family and about people who don’t fit in!"
Based on the 2014 documentary by Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, Next Goal Wins follows the Polynesian team’s attempt to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after years in the doldrums. "They were the lowest-ranked team on the FIFA table," explains Waititi. "In the history of the country, they had never won a game or scored a goal. They went on to suffer the biggest international defeat in the history of international soccer. At the hands of Australia, 31-0. That probably works out around a goal every four minutes!"
In response, they brought in a new coach, Dutch-American Thomas Rongen. "There are amazing stories about the state of football when he got there," says Waititi. "There was one football – one soccer ball! – on the island. He really turned that team around."
Playing Rongen is Michael Fassbender, in his first role since 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix. "Not many people know, he’s extremely funny. I think he needs to do more comedies personally," says Waititi. "He was taking a break at the time... but he read the script. He loved it and decided to break his sabbatical and come work with me."
For more on JNext Goal Wins, pick up a copy of Total Film's 2023 Preview issue, fronted by Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer. You can pre-order here, and the magazine will be available in shops and on digital newsstands from Thursday, December 15. And the print version of this new issue comes with a special 52-page supplement counting down the best films, must-see moments, and breakout stars of 2022.
And if you're a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? You get the magazine (and any special supplements) delivered to your door before it's in shops, and you'll save money on the cover price. Plus, with our current subscription offer, you can get a free pair of EarFun Air wireless earbuds worth £55. What are you waiting for? Subscribe now at Magazines Direct. (Ts and Cs apply.)