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INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Interview Pt. 6: Christoph Waltz

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Landa is one of the great villains in dramatic literature, from the very beginning.


Here is the last of our interviews with the cast of Quentin Tarantino's WWII Epic Inglourious Basterds. After having watched the film a couple of times now, I can say without a doubt that this is my favorite of Tarantino's films.

So much of what I love about the film rests firmly on the shoulders of first and foremost Quentin's writing and directing. But even with super-mega-ultra star Brad Pitt in his funniest role to date, Austrian born actor Christoph Waltz completely steals the show.

Waltz as Col. Hans Landa a.k.a. "The Jew Hunter," is one of the most iconic villians in all of movie history. His performance is right up there with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, and Heath Ledger's Joker. And like those performers, Waltz deserves an Oscar. The layers he brings to the already brilliantly written character is triumphant... and Waltz knows it!

Of all the interviews we had that day, Waltz was the most energetic, the funniest and the most genuine. I don't think his presence in that room can or will translate into words. But if you've seen Inglourious, let me say this, Waltz IS Landa... without the evil.

Outrageously well spoken, his words are precise and his humor is sharp and quick witted, even when it came to serious subjects. He was polite, making sure to do a "Duck Duck Goose" style run around the table as he greeted all the members of the press.

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So when he finally sat down at the table, the first question to pop up inevitably was...

What kind of scripts are you getting now? Is it all villains?

A lot of people get inspired by that. That's logical in a way. You're always cast for what has been seen... last. But that doesn't mean you don't have a choice. You can always say no. That's the one choice that an actor has.

I'm kinda stubborn anyway. I only do what I like to do. This is the best villain there is, now [a new role] has to be significantly for me to consider. But that's not the only thing I do, [those] sort of villains. One of the reason's why this part is so fantastic and so unique is that it gives me ample opportunity to actually show other sides[of my acting]. That's the fantastic thing about Landa, that it's so multi faceted and layered.

So [the roles I'm offered] won't all be Nazi's and villains hopefully.


A theme that kept popping up was the fact that all of the actors were such big fans of Tarantino before being brought on to Inglourious. In the B.J Novak Interview, he explained how he dropped everything on his highly successful show The Office, which he writes produces and stars in, so that he could do the film. In the Michael Fassbender Interview, he told a story of how as a teenager he had organized a stage version of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.

Everyone was such a fan of Tarantino. Was that the case for you as well?

No. (the room erupts with laughter)

I like his movies... some more than others. I didn't quite understand Kill Bill that well, even though I love to watch it. My favorite Tarantino movie that I really really loved is Jackie Brown. It took me a lot of times watching it, [for me] to appreciate Pulp Fiction. I'm not entirely uncritical, and not just a fan.


Do you like Tarantino's latest movie?

Inglourious Basterds?


I heard it's good.

(in a whispering voice, dropping down very close to the table) It's fantasic.


How is it to work with Brad?

(still in whisper voice) Also fantastic.

Seriously though. Brad is a real actor. Working with real actors is joy. The fact that he's one of the biggest stars in the world didn't come into that equation. After he had eliminated it from it. Which isn't my place to say, 'Hey Brad, listen. How about forgetting about all that star business.' He approached me literally with open arms.


A gossip-type columnist with Brad Pitt on the mind in all of the interviews asked...

Did you get to do some bonding with Brad?

You mean a yoga weekend? (eruption of laughter from the table)

We do that for a living. We don't need that sort of extensive bonding. I wouldn't have had anything against it.


Both B.J and Diane said they were quite intimidated by you.

With good reason. (laughter)

Quentin arranged that to keep us separate a little bit. There were lots of occasions where they went out. We kind of agreed that it might be a good idea not to establish this 'buddy buddy' situation to keep everybody on their toes a little bit. Because if you get to acquainted, familiarity breeds contempt. That awkward distance they kept from me made it easier [on screen].


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Putting that Nazi uniform on, how did that make you feel?

I don't support esoteric approach to acting. it didn't make me feel... It was too tight at first. (Everyone starts cracking up. Walt stays dead pan)

They had to let it out a bit. That was actually the biggest worry of mine. And the shoes were too big. [Wardrobe] insisted that I wear these boots,

'maybe if we put a little thing in the heels.'  - 'Well why do they need to be bigger'

'Well it makes a line.' - 'But the shoes are too big.'

Until one of them finally got me a pair that fit. That's kind of my approach.

That doesn't mean that I deny the fact that the uniform does something. But it does it on it's own. I don't have to put too much emphasis on that. That's why the costume has to be precise and exact, perfect. The costume tells something, so to say. And it's very helpful, because if [anyone] put on that grey coat, you as an audience immediately have an impression. That's the important part.

I wouldn't realistically know the difference between wearing an SS and a US Marine uniform... to me it's all a uniform, I'm not into that.


In the film you speak immaculate German, English, Franch and Italian. Were you already fluent in all of those languages?

I grew up German speaking in Austria. Then I learned English and French. And I picked up this fake Italian that I speak.


This is funny, because of something said in the Diane Kruger Interview. About the scene where Waltz speaks Italian, Kruger said of his ability to so easily pick up the accent and language, "He's like that kid in school who never studied, but got straight A's."

How much of this character's personality was yours? And how much was on the page?

Precise percentages? (laughter)


A pie chart would be great! (laughter)

The bringing in of your own personality is in a way inevitable. It can't be avoided. Because it's me who's doing it. Very similar to the uniform, I don't really have to take care of that whole thing too much. Because I have no other means of doing it.

The rest, is on the page. It's what Quentin has written. And... let me tell ya, that's plenty. Because I could still be sitting there trying to figure out, 'What else is in there?' And it's bottomless. That's why this is what I refer to as 'the greatest part.'

Landa is one of the great villains in dramatic literature, from the very beginning.

For specific reasons, and it's a real job to find out the reasons. Ya sit there and you study, and you study and you study. And I don't have the scientific means, I'm not a linguist. I don't know scientific method. But I'd be interested to speak to someone who could really suss this out from a scientific point of view. Because I'm convinced he would agree. You could teach years of courses on that part alone.


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What got you into acting in the first place?

Mmmhmmmm... My version of why anyone would want to become an actor is that it's some sort of psychological fixation. Something that happened it puberty that didn't outgrow in time.
Which is normal. Nevertheless, if you make it a profession it can be really neurotic.

In a way, any 18 year who feels he wants to express himself to the world, has a desire to become an actor. [For me] it was probably the same reason, I really don't remember all that well.


Even after 30 years you have more energy then any other person who's walked in here today.

You mean after 30 years I should be appropriately tired? (laughter)


I mean you still have all this energy after doing at least 500 interviews this year.

But still... I haven't met you before.

That's what I always say when I'm being asked about this late in a way, attention and exposure. And I say, look it comes in handy that I'm 52, not 25. Because at 25 I don't think I could have handled it. And at 52 I've had a few ups and a lot of downs. Picked myself up again and I was on top and the bottom... To be fair and honest I wasn't really at the bottom. I was always able to work as an actor and support my family.

{I] did the good jobs. And more often than not, had the luxury of turning down stuff that I didn't want to do, for various reasons. Or refuse to work with people that I didn't like and there are quite a few of.

Even though this is all new to me and I'm excited like a teenager, I kinda have a very concrete point of reference. And that help a lot.


What's the part that makes you excited.

In this case the part. The first thing that they did, is they sent me the script. The cover page is hand written on it. It's Quentin's handwriting. And it says 'Inglooorious Bastaaards. By squiggly squiggly Quentin Tarantino 2008.'

Seeing his handwriting, there's already something personal. It says, 'Look this is what I've written. Look at it and tell me.' It's not sort of an industry standard form that is 'stamp studio, title.'

It's something personal. Completely on a different level from the very first moment. Of course I went to the casting. I know all his films and I like a lot of them. I admire this truly authentic and original approach. I have the greatest respect for his body of work. Like I said, a few [of his] films I value as high as I can value anything. Why would I not want to meet this person?


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****************************************************SPOILER QUESTION******************************************

Can you recount the end scene where the carve the Swastika on your forehead? Was that you?

It was me. It was on me. It was really cut. They did some protective gadget [so] that I don't end up with some indecent mark.

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