Christoph Waltz: How Quentin Tarantino changed my life
After years as an obscure German-language actor, Tarantino gave Waltz his first English-language role in
Inglourious Basterds (2009). Waltz became the first actor to win an Oscar in a Tarantino film, and he did it again three years later in Django Unchained, which also won his mentor the best screenplay statue “For Inglourious Basterds, Quentin wanted to get the most authentic cast he could so, for the French characters he went to France, for the Germans he went to Germany, and he was lucky enough to get an Austrian.
“I’d never really made it into films in Germany and at the time made a living in television. My whole professional life needed a serious reboot and without Quentin I might have ended up in alcoholism, I don’t know. I was full of frustration. Seriously, it was a very negative period of my life that didn’t show any signs of ending. I’d really got myself into a corner.
“Before working with him, I rewatched his work. As an actor, you try to understand the author, the mind behind it. They teach you to do that in drama school with Shakespeare and Ibsen, so why not do it with Tarantino? I already knew them as a critical audience member but now I was looking as an entirely uncritical crew member and that’s different.
“It’s an interesting way to put it — that I won him an Oscar — but I do genuinely agree. He wrote it, he created these characters and if you ever see how Tarantino writes his scripts, he creates characters and then he sets them free. He writes reports on what happens to them as they venture through his imagination. It’s really fabulous.
“After success with Quentin, my suspicion rose, and I’d think, ‘This can’t be quite right.’ I still catch myself occasionally looking over my shoulder to see if someone is coming to say, ‘Oh no, no, no, it was all just a joke! Go back to German TV.’”
Waltz’s new film Downsizing is out in cinemas on 19 January 2018
Waltz went from German TV to double Oscar-winner in the time it takes to say, ‘Danke, Quentin’