When Christoph Waltz prepared for his indelible role of Hans Landa, the eccentrically charming but much-feared “Jew hunter” in “Inglourious Basterds,” he didn’t research Nazis. Having been born in Vienna, he grew up steeped in the history.
Instead, he prepared by watching all of writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
“I had a feeling (the character) had much to do with Quentin as a person, so I decided to go to the source,” Waltz explains. “I reviewed his movies really thoroughly, in consecutive order. That really was the key to understanding what he’s about and that he’s taking the genre movie and lifting it to an artistic level. I didn’t want to get lost in naturalistic meanderings, but to stick to his artistic intention.”
Waltz, who has spent most of his 30-year career working in German TV, was introduced to American auds in “Basterds” in a memorable, protracted opening scene in which he terrorizes a French farmer in a drolly suave and urbane manner. He won the top actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival and could be considered a strong candidate for an Oscar nom for supporting actor. He’s parlayed accolades into another Hollywood gig, playing the villain in the upcoming “Green Hornet.”
The 53-year-old comes from a family with generations of theatrical experience. Though he says he considered studying medicine, he chalks up his following in his family’s footsteps to “a lack of imagination. When your daddy has a hardware store, you take over when he retires. Every teenager wants to become an actor, but the lucky ones grow out of it.”
Despite his success, Waltz has no plans to relocate to Hollywood.
“I don’t think that’s up to me,” he says. “I’m extremely particular about what the job is, not where it is. If it’s in Hollywood, fantastic, but if it isn’t, I’ll work around that.”
Lucky Break: “The idea of a lucky break depends on your idea of luck. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ covers every idea of luck.”
Favorite Film: “My favorite film is ‘8½’ by Fellini. I identified with it from the age of 16 onwards until today, only on constantly changing levels. And, boy, are the levels changing.”
Five Years From Now, I Will Be…: “Christoph Waltz.”