Vienna-born Christoph Waltz got the part of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa
in Inglourious Basterds, few thought this Austrian actor Ė
well known back home, but a question mark for film fans here Ė would
so define a character and himself through this Quentin Tarantino
film. Now with Django Unchained, Tarantino has done for
Blacks what he did for Jews Ė make a film that turns a sad history
on its head and offers its actors a chance to create career defining
Unchained, the 56-year-old Waltz plays King Schultz, a bounty
hunter endowed with a fine turn of phrase and a quick gun... as well
as a willingness to stand on the good side when it served him.
Set in the
pre-Civil War Deep South and Old West, the film follows freed slave
Django (Jamie Foxx) on a mission with Schultz, the man who liberated
him, to rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). This is hard,
because they have to liberate her from a cruel, charismatic
plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his right
hand man, senior house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). In the
process, Django and Schultz take down a lot of slavers, their
lackeys and racist supporters, crescendoing into the final showdown
between slave and master.
Such good work
by Waltz, among others in the cast, proves that lightning can strike
twice. Waltz has again been rewarded with numerous nominations for
Supporting Actor, including this yearís Oscar.
Culled from a
roundtable and press conference, this Q&A is true to this actorís
words and retains his unique diction, while being fine tuned a bit
for the better read.
is your second time working with Quentin Tarantino having done
Inglourious Basterds. Do you feel more relaxed on the set? Is it
I feel more
relaxed, yes. Is it easier? Not particularly. It was a whole
different set up. We were on his turf. Before we were on my turf, so
to say. Everything was different. I was a little worried about
repeating a great experience. Of course thereís always a tendency
because it went so well and it felt so good that you want to get
more, but thatís probably the first alarm bell that you should
listen to. If the thing demands its own right and you should be
flexible enough to realize that.
Did you have
any external sources you used to help you further develop your
In a way I
think ďoutside sourceĒ is a contradiction in terms. I can only speak
for myself, but the source is the script. The script has a source; I
can point it out to you. [He points at Tarantinoís head.]
How much input
did you have in creating your character?
create him, but I'm playing him. I had no choice but had to exercise
personal input because the poor character had no [way] to escape me.
Though itís me who plays him, I donít claim to have input in
Quentinís writing. It would be very silly [for me to do that]
because Quentin is a fantastic writer. Itís like imagining this
little guy with a chisel and a hammer standing next to Michelangelo
and saying, ďWell I think you should do thisÖĒ No!
instance, is it like Michelangelo is making the piece while showing
it to you?
I choose to
use a bit of an extreme example. Quentin showed me what he had
written, immediately after but not while he was writing it. He
showed it to me in portions, whenever he had 20 pages done. As they
came out of the printer, he showed them to me and I read them. I
marveled [at it] then wondered and was perplexed and then I shut up.
I said, ďIím very curious how it continuesĒ and Quentin said, ďMe
Did you like
the part and your responsibility to him?
Itís not my
own responsibility Ė the character is not my sole responsibility.
Did you speak
with Quentin about the Siegfried story Ė which you outline at one
point in the film Ė since it is part of a Germanic tradition?
is not such unknown story that it needs elaboration.
character is so unique for a bounty hunter. Was there any person you
turned to for inspiration?
Not at all.
But yes, heís an original. I didnít put a dash of Clint Eastwood and
two-thirds of Marlon Brandon in there and then you shake it, stir it
and serve it cold. At least, I donít think I did. Maybe there are
actors who choose that way as a process. I know of one in the
Austrian theater [community] and he comes to all of his performances
after he travels around and gets movies of the play heís about to
do, looks at them all and then picks [his approach]. I find that
boring and also unfair. Quentin didnít write the part with
proportions of other elements in it. He wrote a part [that was his
sophisticated parlay of yours in the script performed word-by-word?
Yes of course.
You didnít add
anything when you were on the set?
No, this is
serious work. This is not silly play acting. This is the real thing.
It doesnít get any realer than that. [Itís not like,] ďLetís play
Pushkin but letís make up our own Pushkin.Ē Maybe you havenít heard
of him, he was a writer back then, letís just improvise on it.
No. Why use Pushkin? Do your own. If I have a script like Quentinís
why would I try to drag it down? Iím busy trying to live up to it.
Thatís happening in a lot of branches of popular culture. They call
it ripping and itís ripping the original apart. They justify it
through critical theory and post-modernism and deconstruction.
Quentin doesnít get any better than that script?
How would you
describe your character?
I donít for
similar reasons. I donít like to describe him because I infringe on
your experience. I do this with the main goal to offer you on screen
[someone] literally for your projection. Thatís the very basic
function of storytelling from the cave to today. To grasp our
existence and give it some form where it becomes tangible. We can
try and place ourselves in situations where we donít have to suffer
the consequences because itís a story. That happens in the mind but
it happens in your mind, not in mine when you go to see the
movie. When I play the character, it happens in my mind and the
difficulty is to find out how to direct these thought processes into
the right direction thatís in the interest of the creators and offer
[the character] all the possibilities to shape this story for you to
experience. I see it maybe differently than usual and I think
thereís a responsibility involved. in making movies that is less for
you than about you.
film has fueled a lot of discussion for the use of the N-word...
Thank you for
saying it. There are many N-words as I learned from Sam Jackson.
ďWhat do you mean N-word? Nothing, nowhere?Ē
Do you feel
this is an American discussion rather than one conducted by a
American discussion, you know why? We can have an opinion and we do
whether we like it or not. As a discussion in America, itís an
American discussion. I, as a European, cannot come to America and
all of a sudden say, ďLet me participate in your discussion.Ē Why
would I do it?
translates to Europe.
It doesnít. We
donít enslave the immigrants. We donít own them. We might treat them
badly but thatís a big difference. They have rights. Itís a free
country. There is no comparison. I find the comparison profane and
ridiculous. Slavery is a dimension far beyond our grasp and thatís
why I think we donít have the right to interfere.
You seemed to
be the only good white guy in the film. Is that a depiction of what
it was like back then?
but in telling a story, you cannot tell it by finding the
appropriate average. You take pars pro toto [ed. note: That
is Latin for "a part (taken) for the whole"] because youíre not
talking about statistics. Weíre talking about a story. Weíre not
talking about that kind of reality, weíre talking about another kind
of reality. What you see on the screen is another kind of reality.
Again, it ties into this thing: why tell stories at all? Why do we
read stories to our children? They offer the opportunity to check
our position on Earth against other categories that we donít really
have a grasp of. To finish why I believe I have no right in
participating in the discussion, because I donít know the finer
connotations. I know what I consider facts that are learned but
thereís a notion in between. I come from Austria. Thereís something
more immediate to deal with than slavery. Weíre busy with that. Itís
new book by Goldman comes out where he actually discusses Polish
participation in persecution and extermination of Jews after the end
of the second World War. Thatís a European issue. When they shot
Valkyrie in Berlin, it happened again and again that Americans
lectured Germans about 1944, Stauffenberg, 20th July. We got
explained our history. You could tell. It was so interesting, and
they werenít really wrong. They were informed but they had no tie,
no emotional tie. Thatís exactly how I feel about this position
here. I have an opinion. I know certain facts. I have no right to
participate because I donít know the really fine points and I have
no emotional connection to it. I disagree that... and this ties in
with the deconstruction discussion... I have no intention in
claiming this post-modern generality where everything is for
everybody. Everything is there to grab and make of it whatever you
wish because itís all the same. Itís not. I want to be specific, as
specific as possible, and I cannot be as specific as this topic
How was it
working with Leo?
believe in good actors and bad actors. I might have said something
along those lines but I didnít say heís a good actor. I donít
believe there is such a thing as Ďa good actorí and Ďa bad actor.í
You have actors, and Leo is certainly one among them who can depict
and embody a character believably, engagingly more often than not.
Others might be more no than yes. But all of that is pretty academic
and itís the moment that counts. Itís the fact that a movie catches
a moment and you can repeat that moment. That makes it more
confusing. On stage, you can see that much better. Is the person
that sucks that evening a good actor or a bad actor? Itís hard to
tell because maybe he had a terrible day. Maybe he had diarrhea and
he needed to run out and it ruined the performance and once heís
gotten over it, heís fantastic. What do you go by? Leo is a joy to
work with and a joy to be with. Heís imaginative and awake and finds
solutions and turns thoughts and moods into plays. He plays this
like a virtuoso musician. Itís fabulous to watch but itís even more
fabulous to engage and play along and give and take. Everything you
do, you will always wish for.
Did you like
the carriage Ė before you blew it up slaughtering the KKK that were
I did. It was
heavy. I trained on one. It was difficult to maneuver. We trained on
one that was a two wheeler and that was fun.
training did you suffer in doing this part? It was reported that you
injured yourself at one point.
I worked very
hard, and succeeded most gloriously in falling off a horse, very
quickly. This was very early on in the training. Then on, my work
was a little slower for the first few months, then I got back up on