“Inglourious” Oscar Buzz for Christoph Waltz

by | August 27, 2009 at 11:40 PM | The Movies

The approach of autumn means that it’s time to start talking about the Oscar race, and as it stands now, Christoph Waltz would be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nod for his charismatically terrifying performance as Colonel Hans Landa, the brilliant Nazi detective from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. At once calculating, intimidating, devious and droll, the 53-year-old Austrian actor gave us the film’s most cunning menace and made himself absolutely magnetic on screen. Despite praise to the contrary ever since the film’s debut at Cannes, Waltz insists he is “not in the show-stealing business.”


“It turned everything on its head,” Waltz says of the premiere. “Not so much personally, because I’ve been doing this for quite some time. I would recommend for every actor to wait 30 years until something like that happens. As a 25-year-old, I could not handle it. You have to fly off the handle somehow sooner or later. Not Brad Pitt, for example. He really stuck to his guns, but you know, you have all these stories about new shooting stars who end up in rehab. There are psychological consequences, absolutely. So, I’m lucky that I’m 50. I said this after Cannes. Ten flashbulbs bother you, but 10,000 are fantastic!”

“It was very traditional casting with the casting agent in Berlin. I was one of the lucky ones,” Waltz notes about how he got this break. “First of all, they sent me the script. That is not something that’s usually done anymore, unfortunately. Usually, you get a page and a half with a few lines, and then what? You don’t have a part! Quentin sends you the whole script, so you know what the story is when you go to meet him. That’s a different meeting when you’re talking about the film. Not about me as a person, what can I do, or how can I sell myself. That’s boring! So, it was really terribly interesting, to be able to talk with the author about this fantastic script.”

Tarantino is notorious for making his cinematic influences plain, but Waltz refused any recommendations from the director as far as models for his role go. “This man has an encyclopedic knowledge of film, you can say, ‘yeah, can you show me like an analog character in a Hong Kong movie,’ and he would have it like that! So, he asked me, ‘Do you want me to suggest anything?’ And, I said, ‘No, the script is enough! It’s plenty, and it’s probably more than I can digest, because there is SO MUCH in it!’”


The clip above is from the first scene in the film, which is crucial in establishing just who Landa is. Unfortunately, not everybody caught the nuances, much to Waltz’s consternation. “I was quite offended when a German journalist wrote that this is a man who likens Jews to rats without the blink of an eye,” he relates. “I thought ‘poor idiot, he didn’t get it.’ Yeah the German could be a hawk and the Jew could be a rat, and the Nazi propaganda says the same thing. ‘But,’ Col. Landa says, ‘where our conclusions differ, I do not consider the comparison to be an insult.’ That really is a clue for the whole part. Others apply moral connotations, derogatory and racist and dangerous, but Landa says, ‘I look at the rat. The rat has fantastic qualities, and the Jews have fantastic qualities.’ He’s in full appreciation of what this whole layer of reality entails. That makes it infinitely more interesting. This is fantastic playwriting, on the highest level.”

His praise my sound effusive, but it carries the weight of a man who knows what he’s talking about. “They are master craftsmen,” he says of Tarantino and Pitt. “And, you know what? I consider myself a master craftsman, too. That doesn’t say anything about the level of the mastership, you know, but like a black belt. It’s more fun to work with masters. In all seriousness, these people know exactly what they’re doing. They’re true artists, masters at what they do. There’s no greater joy for me.”