Taika Waititi is a busy man. Ever since he directed the critical and commercial 2017 hit Thor: Ragnarok, he’s been a whirlwind of activity—co-creating and executive producing the FX comedy What We Do in the Shadows, based on his film of the same name; directing installments in the highly-anticipated live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian for Disney+; helming his upcoming Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit; and returning to the Marvel fold for 2021’s Thor: Love and Thunder. But in between all that, Waititi is making time for a passion project, the sports dramedy Next Goal Wins.
The film is based on the 2014 British documentary of the same name from Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, and follows American Samoa’s national soccer team. Waititi, who co-wrote the script with Iain Morris, will re-team with Fox Searchlight Pictures on Next Goal Wins before jumping back into the MCU. Michael Fassbender is set to lead the project as coach Thomas Rongen and Elisabeth Moss is in talks to join.
Now, Observer has learned of a plot synopsis and character breakdowns for the film.
“The soccer team for American Samoa has an unbroken string of defeats that has made them the running joke of the international soccer community. But after enlisting the help of a bad-mouthed, ill-tempered coach, Thomas Rongen, they slowly begin to master the art of the game.”
Tavita (Male, 50s, Samoan): Tavita is a rotund man in a suit and tie, the head of the Football Federation of American Samoa; he’s also got half a dozen other jobs. A man who sweats profusely and appears to be a heart attack waiting to happen, he is the biggest booster of his country’s soccer team. Daru’s father, Tavita is sick and tired of seeing American Samoa fail game after game, and he hires Thomas Rongen to pull the team out of the deepest bucket in sports history. Tavita makes it clear to anyone who will listen that he has one dream in life: to see American Samoa score one goal in honest competition against anybody.
Jaiyah (Female, 20-25, Samoan, Transgender): A tall, very glamorous looking young “fa’afafine” (transgender), who is the center back of the American Samoa soccer team. Jaiyah giggles and flirts compulsively, even in the middle of a play, and her refusal to take the game seriously drives Rongen nuts. Regarded as “the Cindy Crawford of soccer,” Jaiyah has a well-buried doggedness about playing, and she gradually transforms into a surprisingly effective player.
Shalom (Male, 16-18, Samoan): Still a high school student, Shalom is a gifted football player who might one day get a ticket off the island—if he is not damaged along the way. A pacy runner with a low center of gravity and a confident manner, Shalom is recruited by Rongen to join the soccer team—but literally everyone in the country thinks he has a better shot at a career in football, and Rongen is repeatedly ordered to stay away from the best athlete in 1,000 miles.
Ace (Male, 30-40, Samoan): The manager of the soccer team, who really has no knack for this; Ace is not good at planning or training or tactics or pep talks—in fact, he’s just a placeholder who’s destined to be disappointed in game after game. More than willing to be replaced by Thomas Rongen, Ace is eager to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders to Rongen’s, and happily takes the job of assistant coach.
Daru (Male, 20s, Samoan): Daru is a muscular, tattooed American Samoan soccer player, and he is Tavita’s son. He is regularly seen interacting with the rest of his teammates, but he tends to get desperate during a botched play—and he manages to make everything just a bit worse. He has to break the harsh news to his ailing father that the team won its first game, and fears the news will give his father a fatal heart attack.
Sala (Male, 20s, Samoan): Sala is a police officer whose principal job is busting speeders for going over 35 miles an hour. He got fired from the soccer team for arresting the team for trespass, but is invited back (for no pay) by Rongen, who is desperate for talent. He is regularly seen interacting with the other members of the team.
Rambo (Male, 30-35, Samoan): Rambo is an overweight ex-athlete; he had a football scholarship to a California college once upon a time, but he liked to party and came back to the island. Now working in a tuna cannery, but still able to kick a football, Rambo is recruited by Rongen to join the soccer team, and is regularly seen interacting with the other players on and off the field.
Nicky Salapu (Male, 30-35, Samoan): Nicky used to be the goalkeeper for the American Samoa team—but he botched an infamous game that the team lost 31 – 0, and he’s been licking his wounds ever since. He has moved to Seattle and works as a telephone lineman, a lonely job where insults are few and far between. In spite of the fact that he associates soccer with pain and humiliation, he’s the best-known athlete on the island, and he ultimately agrees to rejoin the team.
Pita (Male, 20s, Samoan): Pita is the goalkeeper for the American Samoa team, and he’s regarded as “the Can’t Really Catch of soccer.” One of the many hopeless players on the team, Pita regularly fails at the most basic part of his job: catching the ball in mid-air. He is regularly seen interacting with the other members of the team, on and off the field.