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Marshall Fine

Marshall Fine

Posted: August 18, 2009 06:18 AM

Interview: Christoph Waltz Plays the Bad Guy in Inglourious Basterds


As actor Christoph Waltz talks earnestly about working with Quentin Tarantino on the imminent Inglourious Basterds, he knows that it's already starting to happen.

A stalwart of German film, television and stage, Waltz has lived in London for 20 years -- but he'd never really made a dent in English-language films, until he won the best actor award at May's Cannes Film Festival.

"Now that's about to change," Waltz says. "The change is happening."

The change, the moment: when an actor comes seemingly out of nowhere and dominates a movie so completely and unexpectedly that it launches him to a whole new career level. It's starting to happen to Christoph Waltz, overnight international movie star at 52.

Since Cannes, even as anticipation has built for the release of Tarantino's World War II epic, casting agents -- and serious offers -- have been chasing Waltz.

"I've got two, maybe three, conflicting offers and I have to make up my mind because I can only do one at a time," Waltz says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, after a recent press junket. He seems particularly pleased that, of the roles he's been offered, "not a single one is a villain. That would be boring to repeat. This was one of the best parts ever. I don't like repetition. In this case, it would be impossible."

Col. Hans Landa, the deliciously self-satisfied Nazi commandant who swaggers through Tarantino's movie, stealing every scene he's in, is the role of a lifetime, one that Waltz plays with great panache: "The thing that really surprised me was that it was all in the script," he says. "What you see on the screen is in the script, although not everything in the script is on the screen."

Waltz wasn't convinced he was even being considered for the role when he met with the casting agent: "They sent me a script, where usually they just send a few pages and you don't know what it's about. But this was a fat envelope with Quentin's script. But even though I was reading that role, I thought it was just to test me for something smaller."

It was all in the script -- even that massive calabash pipe that Landa pulls out in an early scene?

"The pipe is in the script," Waltz says.

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