Danelle Satherley is no stranger to working with Taika Waititi, having collaborated with the director and filmmaker on Boys, What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, and now Jojo Rabbit. Satherley now turns Waititi into Hitler, as the imaginary best friend of Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis).
Since the film was never going to be your run of the mill World War II drama, the key factor was creating a look that spoke about a child’s vision. “It was very clear to us both that we weren’t making a carbon copy of Hitler. We wanted to touch on the reference points to indicate that this is who he is, except he is Jojo’s imaginary version. It was not our intention to have an exact replica of Hitler.” Satherley says. “We look at lots of resource imagery and worked out what we could do that would nod to him. The hairstyle and mustache were very obvious points. There were extensive discussion ideas where we were jamming ideas back and forth such as if he had eye bags. He had that hangdog look around his eyes, but we didn’t want to overcook it either.”
With Waititi working both in front and behind the camera, Satherley says it would take an hour to get Waititi’s hair and makeup ready. “Most of the time he was in the first scene of the day. If he wasn’t I’d pick up my kit and would sometimes end up doing his makeup on set. I’d set my station up in the middle of the forest and set up and get him ready for the character. I was always trying to be mindful of his time.”
How Satherley turned Waititi into Jojo Rabbit’s best friend, Imaginary Hitler:
We decided early on that this was Jojo’s imaginary version. The hair silhouette echoed his. It was a rough raw version. We’re working with Taika’s Polynesian hair, so that was a logistically an interesting process. We had to relax the wave and volume in his hair because we wanted a raw finish.
We decided for the mustache that since Hitler had various permutations of that silhouette throughout the years, and he had odd versions. It’s an odd mustache, and it was kooky at times. We decided on a shape that again was raw but again worked with Taika’s face shape and proportions.
We had some ear forms made to push his ears out slightly because Hitler did have quite prominent ears. We thought that would be a nice little nudge towards a similar silhouette. I applied them daily just to push the ears out a little.
I took his skin tone down a shade or two. I was really cautious and didn’t want to go into whiteface territory. I did a little color correction and took his skin tone down a shade or two. We weren’t trying to make him look Caucasian.
There are varying accounts of what color Hitler’s eyes were, but we decided that through Jojo’s perspective and all of the propaganda he would have blue eyes. So we did the colored lenses.
All of that combined with his performance was like, we get it. It was a daunting task. We knew he’d be scrutinized because everyone knows the image. It was important that we touched on the reference points but that we never made him an exact replica.