Based on a true story and adapted from the 2014 eponymous documentary by Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, ‘Next Goal Wins’ is a biographical sports drama movie co-written and helmed by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi (known for ‘Jojo Rabbit‘ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘). The narrative revolves around the American Samoa national soccer team, considered one of the weakest teams in the world after their brutal 31-0 loss in the 2001 FIFA World Cup. With yet another FIFA World Cup approaching in 2014, the American Samoans must do well in their qualifying matches for a chance to reach the finals and redeem themselves.
Enters Dutch-American soccer coach Thomas Rongen, who has two options — get fired or take on the challenge of coaching the American Samoa national team and convert them into an elite squad for the World Cup Qualifiers. In the comedy-drama film, Michael Fassbender essays the role of Rongen and is accompanied by several other talented actors, including Oscar Kightley, Kaimana, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, and Elisabeth Moss. The tale unfolds in American Samoa as Thomas and his new team prepare for the qualifiers on the training ground and by hiking a mountain too, making the viewers wonder where ‘Next Goal Wins’ was shot.
Where Was Next Goal Wins Filmed?
‘Next Goal Wins’ was filmed in Hawaii, especially in Honolulu County. As per reports, principal photography for the biopic got underway in the first week of November 2019 and wrapped up in about a couple of months, in January 2020. However, after Armie Hammer was accused of sexual assault by several women, he was dropped from the movie and Will Arnett was cast to replace him. Around December 2021, Arnett reshot all of Hammer’s original scenes for the movie.
Honolulu County, Hawaii
The shooting of almost the entirety of ‘Next Goal Wins’ took place in Honolulu County, which encompasses the eponymous city and the rest of the neighborhoods on the island of O’ahu. While the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, served as the primary production location, several pivotal sequences were also taped in other parts of the county. For instance, the training scenes involving the coach Thomas Rongen and the players of the American Samoa national soccer team were taped in the Kaneohe Civic Center Neighborhood Park at 45-270 Waikalua Road in Kaneohe.
In a November 2023 interview with Variety, Michael Fassbender, who portrays Thomas, explained his experience of shooting in Honolulu. He stated, “One of the great things about shooting on location is you always have the experience of really tapping into a culture because you’re working with the locals. It’s a great way to experience different places, cities, and cultures. It’s always a privilege when you work on location.”
Just a couple of days prior to the World Cup qualifier match, Thomas leads the team to climb up a mountain where he gives a motivational speech. Although the scene is set on one of the mountains in American Samoa, it was actually shot on a mountain situated in Honolulu County, with several drone shots of the lush greenery. Apart from ‘Next Goal Wins,’ the county has hosted the production of various film and TV projects over the years, including ‘Waterman,’ ‘Ride the Wild Surf,’ ‘Aloha,’ and ‘Big Wave Bootcamp.’
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