Taika Waititi & Jaiyah Saelua On Humor, Hope & American Samoa


  • Next Goal Wins is an uplifting sports film that combines humor, drama, and tears to showcase the power of hope, goodness, and happiness.
  • Taika Waititi successfully portrays the American Samoan culture and Pacific vibe in the film with the help of his team of cultural advisors and cast members who are Samoan.
  • Michael Fassbender brings depth to the role of coach Rongen by portraying a more ignorant and belligerent character, adding authenticity while still making the story entertaining.

Next Goal Wins tells the inspirational true-ish story of the American Samoan men’s national team. When Dutch American football coach Thomas Rongen is given an ultimatum to coach the American Samoan national team or be fired, he agrees to coach the worst team in the sport. Rongen’s ultimate goal with this team is not to win but to help them score the first goal in the history of the American Samoan national team, and with some help from one of his players, Jaiyah Saelua, he just may have a chance.

Taika Waititi directed Next Goal Wins, which is based on the documentary of the same name. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Iain Morris. Next Goal Wins stars Michael Fassbender, Oscar Kightley, Kaimana, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, and Elisabeth Moss.

Related: Most Anticipated Movies Of Fall 2023

Screen Rant interviewed director Taika Waititi and inspiration Jaiyah Saelua about Next Goal Wins. Waititi explained what spoke to him about this story and how he adapted it to fit his style. Saelua and Waititi also discussed representing American Samoan culture on the big screen.

Taika Waititi & Jaiyah Saelua Talks Next Goal Wins

Screen Rant: I love this movie so much. Growing up, I played soccer, so I was so excited for this, and it embodies everything I love in a sports movie.

Taika Waititi: Awesome! Great!

Taika, what about this story drew you in, and how does Next Goal Wins stand out from some of your other work?

Taika Waititi: I think the only thing that makes it stand out is it’s a sports film. But all the same Taika elements are in there. There’s humor, there’s some drama, and a few tears. I like to think that my films are uplifting. I think in the world of cinema and the world that we live in today. We’ve got constant reminders of how terrible humans are, and how bad the planet is to live on. And I don’t believe in that.

I think that humans are fantastic, and I believe in humanity. I just believe in the power of hope, of being good, and being happy. A lot of this film is about just letting go and not trying to control everything in your life. It’s not about winning. It’s not about this infatuation that we’ve got with success. Because what is success? In the film, success is having a team and being able to play a game, and that’s the success of it all. Family. Family is what you make it.

Jaiyah, can you talk to me a little bit about bringing the American Samoa culture to the big screen and what you wanted to make sure it was represented for people who don’t really know as much about this culture?

Jaiyah Saelua: That was Taika’s job. To make sure that the culture was portrayed. I didn’t have much to do with the film, but of course, if anybody in Hollywood could portray the Samoan culture and the Pacific vibe it would be Taika. And then also, he’s the only one that could add comedic elements to those parts of our culture, because otherwise it would be problematic. So, I think he had a team of cultural advisors.

Taika Waititi: Yeah, basically some of the cast as well, Oscar and Dave, who are in the movie and they’re Samoan. I’m from New Zealand and Māori. We’re all very similar in the Pacific, but there’s certain things I would hope to get right in depicting another culture, another people. So I just leaned on a lot of my friends in the cast, and crew, and people who were Samoan just to make sure that I was staying in the Samoan lane. Making sure that things felt right to them.

What does Michael Fassbender bring to the role of coach Rongen that wasn’t necessarily on the page?

Taika Waititi: Well, I created a version of coach Rongen that satisfies the story needs for the film. So I made him a little bit more ignorant in the film and a bit more belligerent. He had gone through more, a bit more lost when he gets to the island. Which is something you needed somewhere for a character to go. Thomas, in real life, is a sweetheart. He’s a larger-than-life character.

There’s a lot of similarities between him and the Fassbender character. Make no mistake, I’ve taken a lot of liberties with retelling this story, but the true parts are and the authentic parts are the heart and soul of the story. Very specific details that are true. A lot of elements are true, but it’s more about also making it entertaining, that’s unique and authentic to my style.

About Next Goal Wins

Michael Fassbender celebrating in Next Goal Wins

Michael Fassbender stars as Thomas Rongen, a soccer coach whose anger issues tend to boil over at the wrong times, costing him a marriage (Elisabeth Moss) and a premier coaching gig. The federation (led by smarmy Will Arnet) cast him off to coach the worst team in the sport, American Samoa.

Next Goal Wins is now playing exclusively in theaters.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

  • Next Goal Wins Movie Poster 2023

    Next Goal Wins

    Release Date:

    Taika Waititi

    Michael Fassbender, Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Beulah Koale, Uli Latukefu, Rachel House, Kaimana


    97 Minutes

    Comedy, Drama, Sports

    Taika Waititi, Iain Morris


    Next Goal Wins is a sports-comedy film based on a documentary of the same name released in 2014. Directed by Taika Waititi, the film takes a more comical approach to the story of one coach’s attempt to take the American Samoa national football team, considered the worst in the world, to the FIFA World Cup.

    Story By:
    Mike Brett, Steve Jamison

    Imaginarium Productions

    Searchlight Pictures


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