Berliner Morgenpost interview with Christoph Waltz (UPDATE: added link to News.at interview)

by November 20, 2011 Carnage

Update: Here is a link to News.at ‘s interview with Christoph Waltz (German) Polanski hat immer Recht

Here is a short interview with the Berliner Morgenpost about Carnage. Original in German, rough translation below.

Berliner Morgenpost: Waltz – “Es ist einfach, Hollywood zu verteufeln” (Original German)

Waltz – “It’s easy to demonize Hollywood”

In 2009, the Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, born in 1956, played the SS Colonel Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds”. In four languages – German, French, English and Italian – he could be experienced and director Quentin Tarantino described him as “linguistic genius”, without the film would never have been possible in that way. Since then the Viennese, who had not previously been under-employed, is omnipresent. This year he plays in “The Green Hornet”, “Water for Elephants”, “The Three Musketeers “and now in the chamber drama by Roman Polanski, “Carnage”.

Peter Zander has met him.

Morgenpost Online: How do you deal with your new status as a Hollywood star?

Christoph Waltz: I don’t deal with it at all. Already when “Inglorious Basterds” was filmed at Babelsberg, there was a truly memorable moment. Sylvester Groth, a really great actor, has asked me: How did we make it, why us? Then we said to ourselves: Despite all the excitement we feel, we are doing now just what we’ve always done before.

Morning Post Online: “Carnage” is a four-character play, which is played by four Oscar winners. Are you scared of each other at the beginning? Are you nervous?

Waltz: Well, clearly. We all were. But do you have to be ashamed of being nervous? You let it out and, fine. We are all, hmm, I phrase it like that: veterans. We’ve been doing our job for quite a long time. We know our tools and know how to use it so it is no longer visible. And that is exactly what you’re doing when you reach a certain level. And then it’s also this: The fate of an actor is that he can’t do his profession by himself. I mean, he could, but that would lead nowhere. You can’t, just like a painter, refine your art alone in the studio. As an actor, you need the others. And if you need others, they need it to enjoy working with you.

Morgenpost Online: Did you know Yasmina Reza’s play?

Waltz: Oh yes. And I would say, Yasmina Reza is an absolute exception. As there are not many comedies that reflect our lives. We have great playwrights such as Jan Fosse, David Mamet, David Hare, just to name a few. And they have developed awesome dramas, everything is great. But where’s the comedy? If we look at comedies, they are ridiculous. Dumb. Waste of time.

Morgenpost Online: What is a good comedy like for you?

Waltz: Comedy is a serious business you are laughing about. I’m from Vienna, where in the 19th Century one of the best comedy writers lived. He wrote as much as Shakespeare, even a little more. Johann Nestroy. He was a superstar. He could not go out on the streets in the 1880s because people reacted as they do today on Leonardo DiCaprio. And this, mind you, completely without television, media and tabloid press. Nestroy exactly fulfilled this function. It seems that today no one meets that requirement. Possibly, except of Yasmina Reza, nobody can anymore.

Morning Post Online: “Carnage” is taking place in only one apartment. Now Polanski was still under house arrest when he designed the film. Did he …

Waltz: Stop! What are you aiming at? If he had not had an electronic tag, what would he have done with the play? Would he have shot it somewhere in the mountains? Or on a football field? Of course not.

Morgenpost Online: Excuse me, but the claustrophobic moment, it forces itself on you.

Waltz: I don’t think so at all. That’s just the play, it plays in a single room. Period. If Polanski had not been under house arrest, it would nevertheless still play in one room. I don’t see a connection . Have you seen the play before?

Morgenpost Online: In the Berliner Ensemble. With Michael Maertens in the role you play in the film.

Waltz: And it was the same, right? Sorry. I have to defend Roman Polanski a bit now. The decision to shoot the film certainly has nothing to do with the fact that he was exposed to a lot of nonsense of late.

Morgenpost Online: At least it had to do with the fact that the film was not, as planned, shot at Babelsberg, but in Paris. Because Polanski didn’t want to leave anymore. You have also presented the film without your director in Venice. Didn’t that feel strange?

Waltz: Oh yes, it did. I would have liked to have him around. And much more would I like to have him with me right here now so he could answer all those questions. I’m feeling about that, sorry, a bit unwell. It is simply this: the atmosphere is by no means claustrophobic. It’s not like they’d be locked in. You are already about to leave, and that’s the joke, that always go back into the apartment, although they are already out. To break this down to the lowest possible denominator: Yes, the scenery is restricted in space. But no one is forced to stay. Polanski was very well forced to unfortunately.

Morgenpost Online: Could you describe for us a bit what it is like to be working with Polanski?

Waltz: No, I can’t. Sorry about that. Directors work in different ways. The ones I really enjoy working with, do not use old-fashioned psychological tricks. They just do their job. There is the stage design, we have to do it there, so let’s do it. Of course there are also those who would like to look into the soul of the characters. I know a director who does chakra meditation with his actors …

Morgenpost Online: There are also actors who want to look into the soul of their characters. The famous method acting of the Actor’s Studio.

Waltz: Complete nonsense. When somebody says that he totally becomes his role, there are two options, and really only these two: either he has no brains or he’s lying.How is one supposed to become somebody else? People who say that should be treated or should get pills. That’s not the purpose of acting either. Accordingly, I would have to, in order to be convincing in “Carnage,” study law, start a firm and marry Kate Winslet.

Morgenpost Online: The latter would at least not be the worst.

Waltz: I agree with you there. But only there. No, the so-called “Method” was very important in the forties and fifties. It has not only changed acting, but has also changed writing plays and filmmaking completely. But that was 50 or 60 years ago. We have also developed. And if you look at it really very objectively, these performances are very outdated. I’ve recently watched “One-Eyed Jacks” with Marlon Brando, his only film he also stage. And that’s a disgrace. A single vain navel display, over and over again he has to prove to us how sexy he is and that he has a tight butt. So much about method.

Morgenpost Online: And how are you doing in Hollywood? Is it like you had pictured it?

Waltz: Certainly not. But that’s no new insight. I have to confess – Hollywood, that’s what I was longing for when I started. At the age of 18 or 19. I wanted to be there. But then I started to live of acting, and quickly noticed, that had nothing to do with Hollywood.

Morgenpost Online: There is always Hollywood again, to describe it: dream factory, industry, tinsel town.

Waltz: Industry perhaps fits it best. But would you ask a car salesman: What is the car industry? You might ask him, how the business is going, what a certain car drives like. In a word: I can’t bring Hollywood to the point. I only know individuals and they all have individual plans. Sure there are the big studios. But they also break down into smaller units. Universal has shares in Spielberg’s Dreamworks. There is an animation department, others shoot comedies or series. There are many young people who want to make movies and only want to meet Spielberg because he might get them into contact with Universal. Many individual interests. And we call that Hollywood.

Morgenpost Online: You will shoot again with Tarantino next. You would have waited for him, right?

Waltz: I don’t have to tell you that Tarantino is very very important to me. But he is also a good example for our discussion. He is Hollywood, too. Like Sony or Spielberg. But also still completely different. Nobody would dare to say that Tarantino was a Hollywood director. But that is also part of it.

Morgenpost Online: To many Europeans, Hollywood used to be the evil offer in the past.

Waltz: That’s why I insist to prove the opposite. It is so easy to demonize Hollywood. Just liked Ronald Reagan named the Soviet Union the “dark empire”. What does that mean in plain language? The only do commercial crap and I am the genius. They don’t. They do a lot more than you’d think. And one maybe isn’t always the genius.

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