Oscar Kightley Next Goal Wins Interview
(Photo Credit: Searchlight)

Interview: Next Goal Wins Star Oscar Kightley Talks Grounded True Story

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Next Goal Wins star Oscar Kightley about the sports film. Directed by Taika Waititi, the football movie based on a true story is now available on digital and arrives February 27 on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Based on a true story, this heartfelt underdog comedy follows the American Samoa soccer team, infamous for their brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001,” says the synopsis. “With the World Cup qualifiers fast approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender), hoping he will turn the world’s worst soccer team into winners.”

Tyler Treese: What I really loved about Next Goal Wins is that it’s a true story. It’s inspirational, and there’s a great message from it, but it’s also not about the “greatest to ever do something.” It’s more grounded, and it’s more relatable. How was it knowing that you had the opportunity to tell this amazing story to such a broad audience through this film?

Oscar Kightley: It was amazing because it was a big thing for us as specific people to get this opportunity and the fact that it was a story from our part of the world. Also, I think for Americans, too, maybe all they know about American Samoans is all the stars they see in the NFL.

But this was another side of the people, and it was really cool, man. It was when I knew that I was gonna be a part of it — apart from the fact that we shot it in Hawaii and I was gonna be there for a few weeks — it was special to bring the story out. Because I love what you said about how you liked that it was grounded, which made it more relatable. Because you know that’s what I already loved.

At the end, they didn’t qualify. It wasn’t like bells and whistles, and they made it to the Olympics. And the thing Taika says about the film that it’s okay to lose. What does that mean actually, you know? When our culture was so zero-sum game – and in sports — there’s gotta be a winner. But there’s always a flip side to that.

So I love that I was in it, and I love that he was able to put a different spin on that kind of typical conversation that we have when it comes to this kind of stuff.

One point you touched on was getting to show America Samoa off to a lot of people. How did it feel getting to show off aspects of the culture? It’s focused on the sports, but throughout the film you see a lot of aspects that I wasn’t particularly knowledgable. It makes me want to do more research.

Yeah, man, it was huge. It was huge. It means a lot.

If you add up all the number of Samoans in the world, you’ll still only come up to about 700,000 when you add in the populations from Samoa and New Zealand, Australia, the States — and of course, the original Samos where we all spring from. So getting to this stage, even having Disney behind it, even the fact that I’m doing press for it and talking to you and having this opportunity to talk about other aspects of the experience, was massive. It was awesome.

Because normally, I can’t remember the last kind of Polynesian movie. Can you think of one? Gary Cooper did one [in 1953.]. It was beautiful, Return To Paradise. And then there was Rapa Nuii starring Jason Scott Lee and Esai Morales [in 1994,] which was set in Easter Island. But it doesn’t happen a lot. So it was cool for us to do this kind of contemporary story.

You’re so entertaining throughout the film, but I have to ask – you do several scenes with boobs drawn on your face. Was that embarrassing, or since you can’t see it, it kind of fades away?

Bro, honestly, you know Taika had designed the boobs. He drew them out on a piece of full SCA paper, and I gave it to the makeup artist, and then she very patiently applied them every morning. And it was about a week that I had to get the boobs on my face.

Honestly, I forgot they were there. But throughout the day, I’d always get these weird smiles and strange looks and I’d be walking around and I’d forget completely. But now they’re there forever, and thanks, Taika, is all I can say. But, you know, as long as it served a purpose and added to the entertainment, that’s all good, I guess.

You deliver a lot of laughs, but you also have one of the greatest moments in the film. You give this great speech to Michael Fassbender’s character during halftime. It’s a real turning point emotionally for the film. How was it filming that scene?

Well, thank you, Tyler. I’m glad you picked up on that.

We shot it in 2019. It was the last film shot in the before times. We didn’t get to do the pickups with COVID until three years later. And that scene was one of the new scenes. Taika had shot some other stuff, but I guess he was still trying to kind of find that moment. [The moment] that all that this particular genre of film has – you described it as the emotional turning point. And that was one of them.

And man, I gotta say, I think I got there the night before. I enjoyed LA too much and I wasn’t feeling the best the next day. I was a little bit seedy. I think I’d spewed actually in the morning right before we did a scene, and I wasn’t feeling the best. It wasn’t my finest hour.

[So] this scene was happening, and I was like, “Oh man, what the heck?” And Taika was finding it and finding it and getting us to change things, and I was feeling so terrible, <laugh>. And then he came up with it in the improv, and he turned it around, and he goes, “Try this.”

So it wasn’t even in the script. It’s something that he found after working the scene for hours. [He knew] there was a moment he needed and it turned out to be the key one. But yeah, I also watched that, and I go, “Man, I was so hungover that day, but also, I’m glad it came out okay.” So it did the job!

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