Next Goal Wins: Everything We Know About Taika Waititi's Underdog Soccer Movie

One of the benefits of being a Taika Waititi fan (Waititians? Taikalites? I'll workshop it) these days is that you rarely have to wait long for his next project to pop up, be it something he directed, wrote, or stars in, if not all three (as is often the case). That also makes it less of a big deal when one of his ventures leaves you, shall we say, underwhelmed.

Case in point: If Waititi's superhero sequel "Thor: Love and Thunder" wasn't your cup of tea and left you wishing he would get back to his roots in making quirky low-budget dramedies ("Eagle vs Shark," "Boy," "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"), then I come bearing good news. His latest directorial effort, "Next Goal Wins," sees Waititi tackling another story about misfits that blends broad humor with real pathos. And if that title sounds familiar, it's because the film is based on Mike Brett and Steve Jamison's 2014 sports documentary of the same name and will dramatize that movie's real-life underdog story with an extra dose of Taika-ness (and all which that implies).

Here's everything we know about "Next Goal Wins" so far.

When and where to watch Next Goal Wins

"Next Goal Wins" actually began shooting in late 2019 and wrapped not long after, only to land itself on the back-burner due to both the pandemic and a certain ex-cast member whose name rhymes with "Smarmy Blammer" (one whose role in the film has since been re-cast, as we'll get into a little later). The movie was only further delayed by Taika Waititi's commitment to making "Thor: Love and Thunder," which prevented him from carrying out reshoots until he was finished filming the God of Thunder's latest big screen outing.

Despite all that, "Next Goal Wins" is firmly in the can now and is set to hit theaters on November 17, 2023, having previously been dated for April 21 and then September 22 that same year. It seems Disney and Searchlight Pictures, which are backing the film, might be planning to take this one on the festival circuit in order to bolster its awards season chances, much like they did in 2019 with Waititi's Oscar-winning "Jojo Rabbit." Whichever way "Next Goal Wins" fares in that regard, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Waititi's underdog sports flick will be a tad less polarizing than his movie about a Nazi youth whose best friend is an imaginary version of Adolf Hitler.

What is Next Goal Wins about?

Taika Waititi's "Next Goal Wins," like the documentary it's based on, tells the true story of the American Samoa international football team (or, as we hooligans in the U.S. would call it, their "soccer team"), which infamously suffered the worst loss in World Cup history when the Australian team beat them 31-0 in 2001. I still maintain that any sports game victory that one-sided reflects far worse on the winners than it does the losers, but I'm also sure that didn't make the defeat any easier to swallow for the American Samoa players.

Hoping to reverse their prospects, the American Samoa team recruits Dutch-American international football player turned coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) to resuscitate their reputation and shape them into, if nothing else, actual contenders. "Rugby is the national sport in New Zealand, but it's about underdogs, and I just love underdog stories," Waititi told Entertainment Weekly. "Most of my films are about people who live on the margins, or are a little bit left out, and it just fit right in for me." He added that while the film is based on "a true story," it's also a story that inherently has a lot in common with your typical Hollywood sports film. "It's basically the 'Cool Runnings' of soccer," Waititi said.

What we know about the Next Goal Wins cast and crew

"Next Goal Wins" is directed by Taika Waititi from a script he co-wrote with Iain Morris ("The Inbetweeners," the "What We Do in the Shadows" TV show), with Waititi also among the film's listed producers. Joining Michael Fassbender in the cast are Elisabeth Moss as Thomas Rongen's ex-wife and Will Arnett as a fictional international football executive. Arnett, who's fresh off sharing the screen with Waititi in the first season of David Jenkins' acclaimed pirate comedy series "Our Flag Means Death," is also playing the role that was initially filled by Armie Hammer prior to the sexual abuse allegations made against him in early 2021.

Lest anyone fear the cast of a film about the American Samoa team is mostly composed of white people, rest assured that's not the case. Rather, the team's players will be portrayed by actors like David Fane, Beulah Koale, Lehi Falepapalangi, Semu Filipo, Uli Latukefu, and Rachel House, with Samoan-New Zealand actor Oscar Kightley co-starring as the head of American Samoa soccer. Newcomer Kamaina will also star as real-life player Jaiyah Saelua, both of whom are members of the fa'afafine, a third gender that is commonly accepted in Samoa and American Samoa (via NME).

"Honestly, it's just good to put brown faces on film and to have a Polynesian presence in cinema in a really significant way," Waititi told EW. "Elisabeth and Will come in at the end, so basically it's just brown faces and Michael Fassbender."