Taika Waititi has cast a non-binary actor in his forthcoming feature film, Next Goal Wins.
The movie is based on a documentary of the same name that followed American Samoa’s national football team, an underestimated cohort hoping to come back from one of the worst losing streaks that the sport has ever seen.
They went on to make history by having the first non-binary footballer to compete in a men’s FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Jaiyah Saelua is a Fa’afafine, a third gender or non-binary role recognised by traditional Samoan society, who joined the squad in 2003.
They will be portrayed by Kaimana, a non-binary performer who is making their acting debut in the film.
Speaking to Variety, Waititi explained that cisgendered (i.e. male or female) actors were never considered to play the role: “It was vital. There was no way we would have approached it in any other way.”
Kaimana will have plenty of support from more established stars, with Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Michael Fassbender (X-Men) also signed on to the picture.
Next Goal Wins is all but guaranteed to be a hot project as writer-director Waititi is at the top of his game right now, pleasing mainstream audiences with his work on the MCU’s Thor movies, while also garnering awards buzz for his independent film Jojo Rabbit.
Jojo Rabbit, a satire set in World War II Germany about a boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, hits UK cinemas on 3rd January 2020.
With such a provocative premise, the film has predictably been the subject of some controversy, leaving critics largely polarised.
Waititi’s adaptation of Next Goal Wins does not yet have a release date, but the original documentary is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.