Life & Style

More stick-to-it-ive: Christoph Waltz

First he bumbles around for decades in mediocre German television productions - and suddenly he is a world star and two-time Oscar winner. As a Viennese, he may have been born with a certain ironic distance to such a dichotomy. And today he celebrates his 67th birthday.

  • Text
    Helmut Werb
  • Photos
    Jeff Lipsky
  • Styling
    Brandon Palas
  • Hair & Make-Up
    Kim Verbeck

On 7 March 2010, at television and film studios from Munich to Berlin, German producers and directors were kicking themselves for missing a really big opportunity. For years, one of the greatest talents in European film had been right in front of their cameras – and instead of offering Christoph Waltz the sorts of dream roles he deserved, they fobbed the Austrian actor off with supporting roles in TV series like Inspector Rex. And now? On this day, Christoph Waltz won an Oscar for his portrayal of SS officer Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. 

“There were moments in my career,” says Christoph Waltz, “when I was at a crossroads.” It’s been many since his role as murderer-of-the-week in the Austrian police procedural about a German Shepherd, and we’re sitting in a luxurious hotel room in Santa Monica, California.

Christoph Waltz smiles his Hans Landa smile, that arrogant cynical grin, derision coupled with sadism and genius, which made him a two-time Oscar ­winner and guaranteed him a career in ­Hollywood for life. Tarantino had been searching long and in vain for someone who could play the part. In an interview, he once said he knew “that Landa is one of the best characters I’ve ever written and ever will write, and Christoph played it to a tee. It’s true that if I couldn’t have found someone as good as Christoph I might not have made Inglourious Basterds.”


The opening sequence alone takes up 17 pages in the script. With his acting in this scene, Christoph Waltz not only wrote film history, it also was the starting shot for his international career. The opening’s intensity is surpassed only by the infamous “strudel scene” in which Waltz manages to not just destroy an apple strudel but also the nerves of the audience. 

Waltz was already 52, not exactly an ideal age at which to start a career in youth-obsessed Hollywood, when he got his – for him just as surprising – big breakthrough. Despite the late success, Christoph Waltz today plays in ­Hollywood’s top league. With two Oscars to his name (one for Inglourious Basterds and another for Tarantino’s anti-slavery epic Django Unchained), Golden Globes and BAFTAs, a win at Cannes and a stint as host of the late-night variety show Saturday Night Live, he is what, in the industry, they call a “bankable star”, an actor capable of guaranteeing international box-office success.


He portrayed James Bond’s archvillain Blofeld in Spectre and replaced Al Pacino as Qohen Leth in Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem. Roman Polanski cast him in his psychological drama Carnage and he plays the cynical bad guy in both L­egend of Tarzan and Water for Elephants. In the science fiction spectacle Alita: Battle Angel by From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City director Robert ­Rodriguez, he is one of the good guys for a change. The film was produced by James Cameron.

As a German-speaking actor, is he afraid of being typecast as the eternal baddie? A journalist once called him the most evil man in Hollywood. “To be honest, it’s all the same to me,” he says, waving it aside. “I just wonder who said that.” A London journalist. Waltz nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders. As if to say: who cares?


“Unfortunately, the bad guy is a niche. Because those are the most interesting roles,” he adds.

“The hero isn’t worth anything if there’s no antagonist to give him a reason to be heroic. These parts are actually becoming less interesting because they submit to the power of the market in such a way that the drama that we actually desire as an audience just can’t keep up.”
Christoph Waltz

The Viennese actor is witty and charming and obliging and intelligent and impeccably dressed. The way he speaks would once have been described as deliberate – and in the image-hungry film business, he has made this his trademark: the long stress on a single syllable, the pause that he uses as a weapon when he’s playing the bad guy. His eyes gleam, and you wonder if this is the grin of a shark just before it devours its victim. And if sharks wear custom-made shoes without socks.

The father of four tends to ignore questions as to his private life. Then he just shuts down without comment. He does reveal that he has moved his life from Berlin and London to the – more befitting his rank – hills above Malibu. Yes, he says, life has changed: definitely for the better. Being a successful film star also has its positive sides. For example, the (…)

Read the whole article in rampstyle #17.

rampstyle #17 Dran. Bleiben

rampstyle #17 Dran. Bleiben

Dranbleiben? Ist doch klar, was damit gemeint ist. Setzt man aber einen Punkt zwischen die beiden Worte, wird es plötzlich spannend. Im besten Fall regt es an, eigene Denk- und Verhaltensmuster zu hinterfragen und die Freude am Experiment zu entdecken.

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