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.”