Taika Waititi Was a Painter Before Starting His Directing Career at 30 Years Old

Taika Waititi is an Academy Award-winning director, a filmmaker who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the entertainment industry’s brightest stars. Known for his distinctive style and outrageous sense of humor, hiscontributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been significant. While Taika Waititi is a major filmmaking force these days, he pursued an entirely different artistic endeavor — painting — before he turned to movies.

Taika Waititi opened up about his past career as a painter

taika waititi paint
Taika Waititi attends the UK Gala screening of “Thor: Love and Thunder” on July 05, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Waititi was born in New Zealand in 1975. From an early age, he had artistic inclinations, performing with a local comedy ensemble and developing his skills as an actor. However, painting had Waititi’s heart – during his young adult years, anyway. In a recent WIRED autocomplete interview, the writer-director dished how he ultimately settled on his career choice. 

“I didn’t start till I was quite late,” he explained. “There’s all these other directors who started when they’re like eight years old, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I wanna be a filmmaker. I was like 30.”

Waititi continued. “Before that, I was a painter. I used to paint pictures. Film was something I hadn’t tried, so I wrote a short film,” he added of Two Cars, One Night. “I was like, I’ll give this a go, and that short film got nominated for Oscar.” He joked, “Who cares? Didn’t win.”

What kind of paintings did Taika Waititi do?

Waititi is now best known for his movies. But that doesn’t mean he left his past as a painter behind. Later in the WIRED interview, Waititi referenced his paintings in response to another web search. He described his paintings as “figurative, slightly kind of — like a little experimental, painting with oils and wash, and not acrylics.”

Several art galleries and studio websites still have profiles for Waititi, including the Auckland Art Gallery in Waititi’s home country of New Zealand. The website praises Waititi’s artistic integrity, calling him a “self-taught painter and illustrator” and noting his ability to identify with “outsider art.” 

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As he explained, Waititi found himself in movies quite by accident. After Two Cars, One Night made waves, he co-wrote and co-direct the 2014 horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows. A few years later, Waititi burst into the superhero genre with Thor: Ragnarok. Even after all his successes, Waititi remains humble, with a sense of humor about how he fell into filmmaking.

In a February 2012 interview with Interview Magazine, Waititi explained, “I never wanted to be a filmmaker. I still, sometimes, think I got sidetracked by this, like this is a tangent. My main thing was painting; I was just going to do that.” He described how he didn’t have a specific direction when he started. “I was always doing comedy and acting, and I really enjoyed doing that—just making stuff up with my mates.” Waititi added, I was basically trying to do everything.” 

These days, Waititi still likes to stretch his creative muscles whenever possible. He brings new perspectives to the movie business, all while remaining true to all of his convictions. Fans can catch up with Waititi’s latest project when Thor: Love and Thunder rolls into theaters in early July.