Taika Waititi tells story of his father digging up bones and being haunted

His father’s roguish spirit and bizarre entrepreneurial streak inspired his hit film Boy and now director Taika Waititi has revealed how one of his dad’s schemes took a dark twist.

Appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Waititi told how a botched attempt at aquaculture unleashed angry spirits, saying one of his father’s schemes involved digging trenches in from the sea to farm kina and crayfish.

“He dug up about 30 bodies, 30 skeletons from, like, 600 or 700 years,” Waititi told an incredulous Maron.

Waititi explained that a lot of violent conflicts took place along the coastline and bodies of combatants were often left where they died.

“He found 30 of these f***ing people and he was like: ‘This is getting right in the way of my project of farming lobster and sea urchins”.

He said his father “chucked all the bones away” because he “didn’t believe in ghosts” but soon found himself unable to ignore what he had unearthed.

Waititi said his father knew he had done something wrong when he kept waking up to “some old woman sitting on the end of my bed, staring at me”.

It was only when his father approached kaumātua and organised a proper burial for the kōiwi that the visitations stopped.

He said it was just like his father to react with: “Dead bodies are in the way of my money-making scheme” as he spoke warmly of his father’s pride at his work and his old man’s grudging acceptance of inspiring the character in Boy.

Waititi has previously spoken about growing up “very poor” with a father who was a “founding member” of a New Zealand bike gang.

He shocked Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood with the news when he spoke with him on a podcast in 2019.

“I came from a very poor background... it was a fishing town, basically a village because it’s only a few hundred people in this concentrated area and most people are related so it’s a very tight family community,” he revealed.

He said he grew up “between there and Wellington” with “a solo mum who was holding down, like, three jobs at a time” - “so... I wasn’t always thinking about money but it was like, ‘oh man, sh***’s gotta be better than this’”.

He said at the time, his family’s dream wasn’t to have a big mansion, but rather just a microwave.

When he spoke about his father’s involvement in the Satan’s Slaves gang, a shocked Woods exclaimed: “No way.”

He didn’t linger on the subject, but did say his father was “very proud of all the stuff that I did.”