Towards the start of his new film Next Goal Wins, Taika Waititi makes it clear that there are a fair few "embellishments" in his retelling of the 2014 documentary feature of the same name.


As with the doc, the film tells the story of the American Samoan football team after Dutch coach Thomas Rongen (Micahel Fassbender) is charged with turning their fortunes around and salvaging their reputation as the worst international football team in the world.

But the film takes a lot of dramatic license when it comes to portraying events as they happened – and speaking exclusively to, Waititi explained that there were "no rules" when it came to writing the script for the project.

“No rules ever!" he said. "I knew right from the start, like especially in Polynesia, if you try and do something super truthful you're just gonna get in trouble – someone's gonna be offended that their part of the story wasn't told right.

"So I make it very clear to everyone at the beginning, I'm gonna change everything and make my version of events, even though I wasn't even there and I watched the documentary twice.

More like this

"And then someone's like, 'Oh, do you want to talk to any of the players? And I was like, 'No I don't want to talk to anyone, I've got enough! I'll do it, how I think it should have been – my version of what should have happened.'"

He later clarified that although he gave himself free reign to change things and add elements, there were a few things that he wanted to portray sensitively and not gloss over, such as the storyline concerning fa'afafine player Jaiyah Saelua – the first transgender player to play a World Cup qualifier game, who in the movie is played by Kaimana.

Read more:

"There are certain things that I think it's very important that people understand – which is this idea of acceptance that we have in the islands and especially around the fa'afafine culture," he said.

"And then I think the details around the game – like they got a goal and then they won and those things. And then Thomas's character has got... there's definitely truth to that [with] his daughter [who passed away] and stuff.”

He also detailed that there were some things in the film that audience members might think are "completely made up" but are based on truth – such as the TV show 'Who's on the Plane' and a speech Thomas Rongen gives about the Tongan wars.

Meanwhile, Saelua revealed that she greatly approved of some of the changes Waititi had made to the film.

"Jaiyah's character has a lot of additions that I really appreciate," she said. "She scores some goals, but more importantly she gets to body slam Thomas Rongen – I only wish I could do that!"

Next Goal Wins is now showing in UK cinemas. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.