It's safe to say that Christoph Waltz owes Quentin Tarantino a debt of gratitude. The actor was relatively unknown outside his native Germany until Tarantino gave him the brilliant part of Hans Landa, the Jew-hunting Nazi in "Inglorious Basterds." Waltz did him proud, earning himself a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and a Hollywood career. He's teaming up with Tarantino again on "Django Unchained," playing a European bounty hunter who teams up with Jamie Foxx's former slave Django to try to rescue Broomhilda, Django's wife, who is being held captive on a vicious plantation owned by Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio). The movie, which is still shooting, is scheduled for a Christmas release, and Waltz spoke to journalists about the picture at this year's Comic-Con.
Upcoming-Movies.com: So, you're the good guy this time?
Christoph Waltz: You know, I was just talking to your colleagues about the interesting aspect about good or bad, and how various cultures define that differently, and that working on that movie by looking a little bit into American history further than I have to admit I had done before, made me sort of realize that this culture defines good and evil very quickly, or rather attributes good and evil, very quickly, without really detailed definition and for entertainment purposes. It's very important for a story to know right away that Little Red Riding Hood is good and the wolf is bad. But that's kind of a very, not childlike level, but sort of the fairytale aspect of it because the fairytale aspect is mostly designed to teach children about good and evil.
Now in this case, and in Quentin's movies, it's far more complex. Someone confused the parts and she thought I'm a different part in this movie and said, 'how do you justify being so cruel and inflicting so much pain on others?' And at first I thought she was talking about me, not me personally, but about my character, and I thought well that's an interesting question. For once someone likes to look at the other side of things, because yes, I am a good guy, yet I shoot infinitely more people than in "Inglorious Bastards," where I only killed one person. I thought, that's interesting and maybe she...but unfortunately, she had just confused the parts.
You are playing the sophisticated European who is looking at this culture with a unique eye.
Christoph Waltz: Well, I'm considering the historical aspect of the first half of the 19th Century, which is not that long ago that enlightenment had been invented, so to say. It's really just like, I don't know, less than 100 years – a lot less than 100 years. These things were happening in Europe earlier, the revolutions of thought and the revolutions of society and all of these things, so historically really it makes sense that if someone would travel across the Atlantic for whatever reason in the first part of the 19th Century, he would bring a lot of that philosophy and a lot of that new approach to human kind from Europe. That was in a way the basis of, you know, the point of departure into thinking into this character.
How important is creating a back story for your character as an actor?
Christoph Waltz: Anything that you can get. If it's a back story, it's a back story. I don't believe in acting books. I don't believe in such and such, Uta Hagen, or what Stanislavski says in six volumes. I'm sure it's all correct, it's all fine, but it's not an academic thing. You take what you can get and you take it from where you can get it from.
But do you invent your own? Do you create your own previous part of your life before the movie started, for your own sake?
Christoph: I have a hard enough time to create my current life day to day. Do you need it? No, you don't. Is it fun? It might be. Does it help you? Well, help you what? It's all about imagination. There are a lot of misconceptions in my view on acting. All this method hoo ha, it's all very nice, it historically had it's importance in the 40s and 50s when acting was an empty, formal, in the best cases, aesthetic endeavor. It was kind of designed to counteract that and sort of bring it back to the core of human behavior and readable behavior and communicable through behavior so that you identify with a human being rather than a grander concept. But that, you know, that was really the 40s and the 50s. This is like 60 or 70 almost years behind, afterwards, so these things don't apply. Same thing in psychotherapy, you know, are you a Freudian, a Jungian, or whatever. Nobody works like that anymore. They take your own specific case, and you use certain requirements and then if I'm educated enough and trained enough then I can take it from there to make it right for you, not for me. Considering that you're the client and I'm the psychiatrist.
Back to the movie, there have been a lot of changes made apparently from the script to the play, is there a way of describing if there were a change in tone or what would you see as a change.
Christoph Waltz: Well, it's almost like a living organism, and with Quentin more so than with anybody else. Directors who storyboard the whole thing and adhere to the script religiously have a short list that is mathematically perfect, and you just shoot one thing after another. There's something to be said for it I guess. With Quentin, it's a living organism. There's a script, there's a point of departure, the shooting takes care of collecting the material for his edit, so that's six more days to shoot and then the release date is supposed to be the 25th of December.
How has he been different to work with on "Basterds" than on "Django?" Was there more rewriting on this project?
Christoph Waltz: First of all, we were in Germany on "Basterds," and the schedule was tighter. I assume the budget was smaller. Here, we are on Quentin's home turf and emboldened through the experience and the success of "Bastards," it was a little more extensive and therefore the leeway was broader. I don't know the percentage. In "Bastards," pretty much what's in the script, well yeah, well, what script did you read? You know, because after the Christmas hiatus he wrote 50 new pages in "Bastards" and a lot of things changed, yeah. But they change according to necessity, you know. His eyes are better than ours, I dare say. He sees stuff long before they really make their presence felt and he thinks ahead because he is the author. He's not so much a director, he's the author. It all started out in his head and it will end in his head in a way. The thing he's now facing is to transpose what's in his head via the material the material that he's shot through the edit into the movie.