... Vs Liger?

New Zealander Taika Waititi doesn't mind if you compare his charmed comedy to "Napoleon Dynamite'

... Vs Liger?

With all of the luck Eagle vs Shark has had on the festival circuit, SXSW better pull out something special to impress writer/director Taika Waititi. "The script for the feature was workshopped at the Sundance Filmmaker Lab," he says, "where they invite six or eight screenwriters." What's more, Miramax "bought the film off a promo reel at Cannes last year. ... I don't think that happens often." That doesn't happen often. "During the editing process, we ran out of money," Waititi continues, "so [Sundance] gave us a grant." All of this luck at big festivals produced a wonderfully confined film from a director who made his mark with shorts like the Oscar-nominated "Two Cars, One Night." Who would've guessed it's exported from New Zealand, the same country that brought us the Lord of the Rings behemoth?

Eagle vs Shark had simple beginnings. By phone from Aspen, Colo., Waititi explains how Loren Horsley got the ball rolling: "She's a brilliant character actor, and she was playing a character similar to her character in the film in a play. ... We got to talking about making this character who was this really wonderful, naive but very open person, and the character of Lily eventually was created. It's someone who you automatically feel you want to defend." Playing opposite Horsley is Jemaine Clement. Taking a break as one-half of the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, Clement plays Jarrod, a video-game-store clerk on a homecoming mission of revenge. Together Horsley and Clement spin a love story that evolves awkwardly but never plays as novelty.

"Jemaine, Loren, and I, we've all know each other for about 12 years. We're old friends," Waititi says. That explains the authenticity of a movie that has drawn comparisons to Napoleon Dynamite. "I don't really mind that. We watched Napoleon Dynamite after we wrote the script and said, 'Wow, that character is like a male version of Lily and Jerrod combined,'" he recalls. "The thought never occurred to me when we were doing it that 'Oh, this might be Napoleon Dynamite-esque.' We just tried to make the film that we wrote." The finished product looks polished but retains a quirky quality.

"I definitely wanted to work with friends because, it being my first film, I didn't want a lot of stress," Waititi says. "It's nice just hanging out with friends and making a film."

After this excitement – distribution, grants, friends – what's left to do? What's the festival circuit without the drive to sell your art? Waititi has decided to smell the roses, saying, "We're on a tiny whirlwind tour, and it's getting to see new places, which is awesome." Yeah it is. end story


Eagle vs Shark

Regional Premiere

Sunday, March 11, 6:30pm, Alamo South Lamar

Friday, March 16, 6pm, Alamo Downtown

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
Slate includes everyone from Wes Anderson to the Zellners

Monica Riese, Jan. 30, 2014

Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
The comedian and showrunner will speak March 9

Monica Riese, Jan. 21, 2014

More Screens
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Matt Frank builds the perfect monster

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 28, 2020

SXSW Film
SXSW Film Reviews: 'The Act of Killing'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Richard Whittaker, March 15, 2013

More by James Renovitch
Dave Chappelle to Do Three Shows at Stubb's
Dave Chappelle to Do Three Shows at Stubb's
Tickets are on sale now and will go fast!

Nov. 13, 2020

So You Want to Vote
So You Want to Vote
A flowchart to help guide you through mail-in ballots, voter registration

Sept. 4, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Eagle vs Shark, Taika Waititi, Flight of the Conchords, Loren Horsley, Napoleon Dynamite

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle