Jojo Rabbit, the smart and silly satire with a heart of gold, is available to rent today on Vudu! This daring and darkly comedic tale about a young boy growing up in World War II Germany took home the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and we sat down with actor Alfie Allen to talk about his transition from brooding warrior in Game of Thrones to hilarious henchman in Jojo Rabbit.
V = Vudu
AA = Alfie Allen
V: Greetings, Alfie! Thanks for making time for this interview. Let’s talk about all things Jojo Rabbit and you, of course!
AA: Indeed, indeed.
V: We so needed a film like Jojo Rabbit to happen right now.
V: What surprised you most about the film’s success? An off-beat film connecting with an audience is not always a guarantee, but Jojo Rabbit found its way.
AA: Like you said, we did need a movie like this right now! It’s a movie that’s just full of positivity. It’s about a single mother who’s raising her child during a horrific time, and it managed to touch the hearts of many, many people. If anyone has any reservations about seeing it because of the delicate subject matter, I think that you should as it can be a cathartic experience! (Director) Taika (Waititi) had some pretty crazy statistics on how little people knew about what happened during the Second World War. It was very shocking to me. So, I am glad the film is a resounding success so far, and I’m just happy to be a part of it. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
V: The film won the Audience Prize at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival, and it succeeded in keeping a steady momentum of acclaim and interest. Why do you think audiences have been so supportive of the film?
AA: My friends and family have been to see it, and all I’ve heard is positive feedback. Taika is very smart in how he centers his film like Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople; you’re seeing the world through the innocence of a child’s eyes. Jojo Rabbit is a movie that touches upon delicate subject matter. Still, Taika taps into that innocent sensibility in a smart manner. We all like being a kid now and again, don’t we?
V: I can only imagine what it must be like being handed a script like Jojo Rabbit and be asked to consider it as a project. What made you say, “I’m going to do this. Yes, absolutely!”
AA: Projects like Jojo Rabbit should be championed. Especially when you seek to make something that’s daring and interesting and completely different. Scarlett Johansson as Rosie is a role that anchors the movie. Taika is fantastic in it, but I think Rosie just makes the whole thing as it is the story of a single mother raising her child and a lot of people can relate to that. It’s the perfect time for a film like this to be made, as the world Taika creates is a dystopic one but it comes with a positive message rather than a negative one.
V: Let’s talk about Finkel because he is one very interesting character. What motivates this man, especially his unwavering loyalty to Captain Klenzendorf (portrayed by Sam Rockwell)?
AA: Finkel kind of ended up by circumstance on the wrong side of things. He possesses this unwavering loyalty to Sam’s character, which is what drives him. He’s just enamored and obsessed with Klenzendorf. It was just a joy to be able to bounce off of Sam and have that opportunity to at least attempt comedic timing. The whole process in making comedic moments happen in Jojo Rabbit was something I’ve never experienced before. It was great.
V: Watching you and Sam together was like seeing All About Eve without the betrayal. How did you shape this performance, which is a sublime example of physical humor? You say so much with often just an expression.
AA: Taika has this kind of blueprint for what he wants and what he needs. He came to me with the role as he saw something in me that worked for it. I guess it’s all about the company you keep. Whatever came to fruition in the performance was down to everyone else around me. In terms of the physicality of what I was doing, I think it is a compliment to Taika about how loose he allowed things to be and how clear of an idea he had of what he wants. It was a really lovely environment to work in. At the same time, there was an amazing set design. Everyone involved just knew how delicate the material was, but also that we had the opportunity to make something special.
V: When you’re in a specific world like Game of Thrones, certain rules exist for a reason. You can’t deviate too much from what the genre demands. Here’s a film, however, that breaks all the rules. What do you relish most about having this ability to kind of play a role like Finkel? It’s a serious subject matter, yes, but it isn’t exactly told in a serious way either at times. The bursts of humor are very human.
AA: Just after Thrones was finished, I went straight onto Jojo. For me, as an actor, aside from the subject matter going on within the movie, the opportunity to attempt comedy and comedic timing was very attractive to me. I just relished it. People seem to be happy with the finished product. I am just looking forward to having more people see it.
V: You’re a new parent yourself, correct?
AA: I am.
V: This relationship between Jojo and Rosie is wonderful to watch, which makes it so heartbreaking when you see the outcome of Rosie’s actions. As a parent, what was your reaction to this mother-son duo who are the foundation of the film?
AA: I was raised by a single mother. I had that to relate to without a shadow of a doubt. During filming, Taika came out and said it, but we all just felt like big brothers to Roman Griffin Davis. I don’t know if he’d even done that much before, but we didn’t know what to expect when we started filming. Taika created this incredible environment. And so, with Roman at the center of it, I thought the rest of us equally felt like other children. It was just great to be able to guide Roman through it all. It was a family feeling on set for that reason as we all bonded very well.
V: When you have a project that has so many layers to it, how important is it having a leader like Taika to create a unified front? How did he get this cast to be on the same page?
AA: After a long day shooting, Taika and I just went out to dinner straight away. I told him that I was so thankful for his allowing me the opportunity to do something that I had never really done before. I knew about him and his work and was equally excited about working with him as I was about building experiences as an actor. He is just extremely talented. I guess a part of that bond is just being proud of the work. You’re not overshadowed by anything. You just feel like an equal to the other actors on set. That’s one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received on set: never think that you’re better or worse than someone else. Maybe it’s just me projecting, but that’s what Taika tries to do; It’s just a gorgeous atmosphere to work in. You don’t feel the pressure too much. You just feel that you can get on with it.
V: How did you connect with Sam Rockwell? Real-life friendships take years to deepen. As co-stars, you might be meeting for the first time at a table read. How was it establishing that bond with Sam?
AA: I’ve looked up to Sam as an actor for a long time. It was a dream to be able to work with him. Sam’s moments of improvisation and just allowing that kind of spontaneity are similar to what Taika does and allows.
V: Do you have a favorite scene together? Or, what do you view as a signature Jojo Rabbit moment?
AA: A lot of the stuff between Jojo and Elsa, Thomasin McKenzie’s character, obviously, is great as well. The dinner scene with Scarlett and Roman is great: the one where she puts on the beard. I’ve never seen anything like that before. You just didn’t know where the scene was going, and it somehow chokes you up. You see their reality from so many different perspectives in literally the space of about five or 10 seconds, and I just thought it was so clever and so heartwarming and also heartbreaking, you know?
V: How was it living out such a complicated moment in history while on location in Prague? Were you able to decompress from it all?
AA: It was scary at times. There were some things happening that were just frightening as these kids walking around in Nazi outfits and this was normalized for them though they didn’t have a choice in it. It was horrifying if you think about it. When we would go out to dinner in the evenings, we’d have conversations about it. It was all serving a purpose in the movie, as well as paying respect to the struggles people experienced during those times. Shooting it in Prague was strange because at some locations, and it was these gorgeous little toy-town villages, there were still bullet marks in the walls in some places. It was crazy and did feel bizarre at times and scary. But we all knew what we were making, and it was a positive thing we were doing.
V: For you, what makes Taika such a vital presence to have in film today?
AA: He’s totally refreshing as a person and as a director, you know? He’s just what Hollywood needs, in my opinion.
V: When we have a film that focuses on the past, it does make a statement about what we are living in the moment in our reality.
AA: A very, very strange political situation is going on. We have Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, two toxic males who are in power, and I think this is what Jojo Rabbit is about. As I said, the film is about a single mother trying to raise her son, and that’s about spreading love and positivity in the world. And so, I think we need more of that, more of those types of people spreading their message of love rather than hate.
V: One of the key narrative points of the film is Jojo’s friendship with Imaginary Adolf. Such friends are a big deal for some of us growing up. Out of curiosity, did you have such a friend? Why do you think some of us resort to creating such a pal?
AA: To keep you safe from loneliness, I guess, but I don’t know. I will say I had a cuddly toy dog called Blackjack White. I never had any imaginary friends. I think I might’ve tried to have one, but it just didn’t work out. [Laughter]
V: What message do you want audiences to embrace after watching this wonderfully rendered story?
AA: That you are allowed to feel positively about moving forward in our lives and just give each other more respect but also allow each other to be the version of ourselves that we want to be. I think you have to tread that line carefully because some people aren’t going to be the best or nicest version of themselves. But I would say we just have to be more understanding of each other, without a doubt. And maybe not be so self-righteous about things.