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Shadows Unboxed: Five Questions with Taika Waititi, co-director, co-writer, and star of What We Do in the Shadows

Taika Waititi is a fascinating individual: writer, director, actor, painter and a pretend vampire named Viago, who is something of a dandy. Many of his answers were really profound, which is surprising, because the conversation seemed like less of an interview, and more of two just guys talking. However, provided perspective when it came to What We Do in the Shadows, and anyone that has not yet seen this film should go and do so immediately. We chatted after What We Do In The Shadows was the opening night film of imagineNATIVE, (Said Waititi, I think that just because Jemaine and I are Native, it automatically becomes a Native film), and had previously won the Midnight Madness award at this year’s TIFF. We talked at an invitation-only club during the day, which was quite an interesting experience, as vampires only come out at night and must be invited inside.

How grounded in reality is What We Do in the Shadows?

We wanted the film to feel as real as possible. When you’re dealing with such preposterous ideas as ‘Vampires living in the suburbs of Wellington’, you have to keep some of it grounded in reality otherwise it just becomes sort of stupid. Might as well just be a sketch.

How did working with your friends affect your experience?

Even people like Stu, who is not an actor, and has never acted before, we just told him not to do any lessons in acting, and just be himself. And we never had to worry about him. If he asked how he should do something, we just said, “well, do it how Stu would do it”, and he’s got one of the best performances in the film.

What was going on in the bars of New Zealand?

The ridiculous thing is these bars aren’t hard to get into. That’s actually what those bars look like most nights of the week: completely empty, with wannabe vampires hangin’ out. Boogie Wonderland shut down. The dive bar shut down. I don’t know what that says about our film. It’s cursed.

Where are some of the places that have you taken the film?

We went to Transylvania, we went to a Festival there. It was an amazing experience. We were in the Carpathian Mountains. You could feel the energy in those mountains, for sure. And we went to the house that Dracula was born in, we went to Medieval villages and stuff, saw a lot of Gypsies, people living the way they have for hundreds and hundreds of years and it was almost like taking the film home, although neither of us are from there and the film is not from there.

What did you glean most from playing a vampire?

I think what immortality would do for you is that I don’t think you’d be interesting at all. If you lived forever, I think that you’d be really bored, and you’d never get good at anything. Mortality forces you to use this time to do great things. Listen, the reason we do all this shit is to be immortal, certainly to gain immortality of some kind. If you had immortality, there’d be no need to be famous, there’d be no need to try. I think that’s behind everything: wanting to get girls and to live forever. Vampires are just kind of a projection of Man’s innermost desires. In old clothes.

What We Do in the Shadows opens on February 13th in Toronto at the Scotiabank Theatre, in Montreal at the Cineplex Forum, and in Vancouver at Cineplex International Village.