Born in Vienna, Waltz studied acting at the city’s Max Reinhardt Seminar before going on to enter the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. Beginning his career as a stage actor, working everywhere from Vienna’s Burgtheater and the Salzburg Festival, he eventually began to make his way into television and film. Gradually gaining a solid reputation in both Austria and Germany, along the way, Waltz found himself in the odd international production – notably a 1995 television film, Catherine The Great, which starred Catherine Zeta-Jones in the title role. But inevitably, it’s taken someone with the vision of Tarantino to recognise Waltz’s undeniable talents and introduce them to the film-going public at large.
Read Part 1 of the Exclusive Interview HERE
As an Austrian, how do you feel about this as a treatment of WWII?
I think one of the important aspects of the ‘thing’ – Quentin always says,’ Here’s the thing’ so I call it ‘the thing’. One of the important aspects of the thing is that cinema can do it. It’s an alternative. It’s not a correction of history. It’s an alternative. And it’s as real…especially for me. I was born in ’56, eleven years after the war ended. OK, I know from my parents and grandparents about the war. But if you look at it from a tangible point of view, the war being told to me – be it through the history books or my parents, or this movie – in terms of being tangible, they’re on the same level. Someone is telling something. I wasn’t there – thank god – but this is an alternative. Who claims that a movie pretends to only deal with the facts? We’ve had plenty of movies recently. They say, ‘This is how it was!’ Like Downfall. Well, sorry…it’s not.
Does it bother you that it could’ve been your father in the Third Reich?
No, it couldn’t! Don’t worry! But I know what you mean. Do you actually know how many convinced Nazis you actually talked to in real life. Of course not. You don’t know.
It seems your character takes a perverse pleasure in his work…
Not perverse! Actually, one big part of the fun that I had – I keep talking about fun, sheer enjoyment, exuberance, exhilaration! – was that I kept myself from passing judgement. I didn’t say ‘Pervert, Nazi, villain, bad guy’ – and the movie never does that, and nor does the character. The movie does it once, at the very end. And you know how much fun you can have when you avoid judgement. It really is like warm wind under your wings. You can soar. Judgement is weight.
Did Tarantino give you any movie references to work from?
We had movie nights. Every Thursday night was movie night. You had beer, popcorn, hotdogs, nachos…the whole nasty, greasy stuff that you can buy in movie theatres. It was in Babelsberg – they have this fabulous movie theatre there. They’re equipped for everything. Quentin has a collection of 35mm prints, odd prints. He had them shipped over to screen them. Then he held these little introductory speeches which, as you can imagine, were fantastic performances. He showed two Hong Kong movies, and he was talking about the people who made them as if they were all cousins, and uncles – his family. The movies…some of them I knew, some of them I didn’t. But for me, it was these little introductory performance acts that hooked me.
Did he show the film The Inglorious Bastards, from which he liberated the title?
That he didn’t. Maybe he doesn’t have a print of it.
Are you now expecting many Hollywood offers?
I don’t know. This is really what I learned. I learned to love it – and I want to keep it up if I can. Not to judge. Not to expect. Not to label. Hollywood, Hollywood…what Hollywood? Do you like every single movie that you’ve seen coming out of Hollywood? I don’t. Ask the precise question: what is it? What, what, what? If I talk in terms of opening up possibilities, well, yes, I do hope it opens up possibilities. But in that respect, I want to keep that up, keep that going. Don’t judge – without preoccupation. Look at the thing. [Editor's Note: Christoph took Nicholas Cage's role in up and coming film The Green Hornet co starring Seth Rogen & Cameron Diaz]
You live in London now?
Partly in London, partly in Berlin.
So what is your background? Did you go to drama school?
Yeah, yeah, yeah – I went to drama school and I hated it. So I left as fast as I could, and I was lucky enough to get jobs right away. I worked in the theatre for years and years. Then I did film and TV. Doing thirty years of enforced labour is a good preparation for what’s happening right now. It keeps your feet on the ground
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