Taika Waititi says he was ''blackmailed'' into playing Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'.

The 44-year-old actor and director - who is also at the helm of the Nazi satire - stars as a fictional version of the dictator, and he has admitted he originally wanted a big Hollywood name for the role before agreeing to take it on himself.

Speaking to Variety, he explained: ''Fox Searchlights blackmailed me into doing it. You start [out] thinking of bigger stars to be part of a film like this or to play this imaginary Hitler.

''But at the end of the day, it came down to the simple fact that if we had done that, that would have overshadowed the heart of the story -- which is this beautiful story, this relationship story between these two kids.

''And if there was a big celebrity then it would have become the 'so-and-so Hitler film,' which is not at all what this is.''

The film follows a young German boy, Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), who is such a devotee of the Hitler youth, that his imaginary friend is Hitler.

The movie - which also stars Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Scarlett Johansson and Stephen Merchant - was a huge hit with audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival where it was recognised with the Grolsch People's Choice Award.

Waititi added that while the award season buzz has made him ''every more proud'' of the project, he didn't go into the movie with the sole goal of picking up a prize.

He said: ''It sounds a little cliche, but I like to think that I don't write a film or go into making a film just with the express intent of getting awards, cause this seems really messed up and that's not a good way to create art.

''[But after the awards buzz] started happening, I became even more proud of the film.''