HE is the Hollywood hotshot in charge of the next Star Wars movie – but as HOAR revealed yesterday, Taika Waititi’s next big role will be marrying Rita Ora.
The 46-year-old Oscar-winning Kiwi film director is set to tie the knot with Rita, 31, after both almost simultaneously popped the question.
They started dating just over a year ago after meeting in Sydney, where Rita was filming the Aussie version of The Voice and Taika was making upcoming superhero flick Thor: Love And Thunder.
For pals of the couple, the news has been on the cards for a while.
One said: “They are besotted with each other. This was no shock.”
But anyone thinking this signals the start of a calmer, more settled chapter in the life of the energetic singer — whose dating exploits have at times outshone her music — would be wrong.
READ MORE ABOUT RITA ORA
While Taika is 15 years her senior, he has the same mischievous heart as his fiancee and has hit the headlines for his own outlandish behaviour.
Last year the pair caused a stir when pictures emerged of them enjoying a three-way kiss and cuddle with Thor actress Tessa Thompson, 38, on a balcony following an all-night party at Taika’s home in the Sydney suburb of Bondi.
‘Weirdest coupling ever’
He had just finished filming the forthcoming Thor sequel and was reportedly reprimanded by Marvel bosses over the photos, which prompted fans to wonder if he and Rita were in an open relationship.
It is known Taika loves to party as much as Rita, who infamously broke lockdown rules when she held a bash at a London restaurant to celebrate her 30th birthday.
But an insider said those photos had “crossed a line”, adding of it was “not exactly the image (Marvel) were looking to project in relation to one of their biggest franchises”.
Perhaps unfairly, the incident was seen as par for the course for the lively Rita, whose exes include singer Bruno Mars, DJ Calvin Harris and actor Andrew Garfield.
Those photos aside, it seems she is keen to keep her relationship with Taika out of the spotlight to “protect it”. She has said little about their romance, commenting simply earlier this year: “I didn’t expect to find love in Australia, nor was I looking for it.”
It will be second time around for Taika, a father of two, who is believed to have split from film producer Chelsea Winstanley, a fellow New Zealander, in 2018 after six years of marriage.
Rita will become step-mum to their two daughters Te Hinekāhu, nine, and Matewa Kiritapu, six, when they get married in a low-key ceremony later this year.
The couple have more in common than you might think. Both come from humble backgrounds, hitting the big time through sheer hard work.
Rita spent most of her childhood in poverty as a refugee in London after her family was forced to flee what is now Kosovo in the war-torn former Yugoslavia.
Taika has been candid about growing up in poverty.
He was born Taika David Cohen, on New Zealand’s North Island to a Jewish mum and Maori father. His parents never wed and he originally used his mother’s surname for work.
His mum Robin was a school teacher, while his father, also called Taika, was an artist and farmer. Waititi has described that relationship as “the weirdest coupling ever”. He was five when they split.
He mainly lived in the capital, Wellington, with “a solo mum who was holding down, like, three jobs at a time”, he recalled.
Saying they were “very poor”, he has said: “Our big dream was to have a microwave.”
Taika said his dad, who died seven years ago, was a founding member of a notorious biker gang called Satan’s Slaves.
When his 2019 wartime satire Jojo Rabbit, in which Taika plays a cartoonish version of Adolf Hitler, won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Taika thanked his mum for giving him the book the film is based on, Caging Skies by Christine Leunens.
He said: “This film wouldn’t have existed without you doing that.” Making history as the first person of Maori descent to win an Oscar, Taika dedicated his win to indigenous children around the world who have aspirations to create art.
He said: “We are the original storytellers — and we can make it here as well.”
It is a far cry from the 2005 ceremony when Taika was nominated for an award for his short film Two Cars, One Night and pretended to be asleep as his name was announced.
Taika prefers to live away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, in Australia, but is hoping for further mainstream success with the follow-up to 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.
He wrote a first draft of the screenplay for Disney’s Moana but stepped away from the project to make the comedy-horror What We Do In The Shadows.
He later said: “It wasn’t anything to do with the process, I just got bored. Like I do all the time, I just ended up wanting to do my own thing again and make a vampire movie instead.”
The mockumentary, set in New Zealand, became a cult favourite and has spawned a TV spin-off.
With his background in indie comedies, Taika seemed a left-field choice to helm Marvel’s Thor franchise. His only real experience of CGI was directing an advert for the sweets brand Sour Patch Kids.
His quirky comedy-dramas Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, also both set in his native New Zealand, did well at the box office.
But his biggest US credit at that point was writing and directing episodes of HBO sitcom Flight Of The Conchords, starring his college friend and long-time writing partner Jemaine Clement, 48.
Even Taika could not quite believe he had landed the Thor job.
‘Got to fake it’
While filming the £145million blockbuster, he jokingly admitted: “Every morning, I get in the car and think, ‘Man, they still don’t know that I don’t know what I’m doing. They still haven’t cottoned on!’”
The unconventional film-maker admitted sending in a demo reel put together from clips he had illegally downloaded — and even lied to studio bosses in order to get the job. In an interview earlier this year on The Late Late Show With James Corden, he gave this comic advice: “Say yes to everything. ‘Absolutely, I can do that. I won’t let you down.’ You know? If you want a job, you’ve got to lie. You’ve got to fake it.”
That phony confidence paid off and Takia’s signature offbeat humour helped breathe new life into the franchise.
Thor: Ragnarok made nearly £700million at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing film of the trilogy, which stars Chris Hemsworth as the Norse god of thunder.
And Taika will be directing in the director’s chair for the still-untitled new Star Wars movie due out next year.
The coming months will be busy for the couple. Adding to acting credits in Fifty Shades Of Grey and Pokemon Detective Pikachu, Rita will next appear in action flick Tin Soldier, appearing alongside Jamie Foxx, Scott Eastwood and Robert De Niro.
And she will have one of the hottest directors in Hollywood to practise her lines on.