If the ruthless Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) is considered, today, almost a myth, it is mainly thanks to the Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. An actor carefully chosen by Tarantino himself, who with skill and irony has entered the hearts of viewers. But how did Tarantino realise that Waltz was the right actor to play his Hans Landa?
An unexpected encounter
One of the best-loved antagonists ever in film is undoubtedly the ruthless Colonel Hans Landa, one of the most successful characters in the famous feature film Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino in 2009. In addition to the excellent quality of the film, however, if Hans Landa is considered, today, almost a myth, it is mainly thanks to the actor Christoph Waltz. An actor who was carefully chosen by Tarantino himself, an actor who was able to personalise his character as rarely seen, an actor who with skill and irony entered the hearts of viewers and immediately won over even glorious Hollywood. After working together for the first time, Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz became great friends. And they collaborated once again (in 2012, during the shooting of Django Unchained). But how did their first encounter take place? How did Tarantino realise that Waltz was the right actor to play his Hans Landa?
Before meeting Quentin Tarantino, Christoph Waltz had already been working as an actor for years, but had mainly taken part in German or Austrian films and TV series. Born in Vienna on October 4, 1956, Waltz is the son of set and costume designers Johannes Waltz and Elisabeth Urbancic. His maternal grandmother, Maria Mayen, was also a popular stage actress.
Initially, Waltz did not want to become an actor, but rather a cinematographer. Yet, he soon became passionate about acting, first studying at the renowned Max-Reinhardt-Seminar in Vienna, then at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York. After his studies, he finally began to take part in numerous plays and TV and film productions, including Tatort, Inspector Rex, Derrick and the films Wahnfried (Peter Patzak, 1986), Quicker Than the Eye (Nicolas Gessner, 1988), Night Time (Peter Fratzscher, 1998) and The Bride (Egon Günther, 1999).
Christoph Waltz, however, continued to play supporting roles and his career did not give him the satisfaction he had hoped for. Not even when, having briefly moved to the United States, the actor took part in the films Ordinary Decent Criminal (Thaddeus O’Sullivan, 2000) or She (Timothy Bond, 2001). It was not easy to live with such great frustrations. Because of this, the actor also suffered from depression, as well as having had several problems – culminating in divorce – with his first wife (Jackie, a psychotherapist), who often advised him to give up his acting career.
Yet, for Christoph, things would not always be like this. Another man would change his life forever. A renowned film director and passionate cinephile from the United States of America who had just written a screenplay, but had difficulty finding the right actor for one of the characters he had created (according to him, the most beautiful character, but also the most difficult to play, that he had ever written). We are talking, precisely, about Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino could not find an actor for his Hans Landa and was about to give up making Inglourious Basterds. He travelled to Berlin, however, and decided to devote one last week to casting, before devoting himself to new projects. In those very days, however, the miracle happened.
During an audition Christoph Waltz came in. The moment the actor read the first two lines, Tarantino realised immediately that the film would be made. The rest is history. In order to play Landa, Waltz acted in German, English and French (and he also studied a little Italian for the occasion, in order to perform one of the funniest scenes in the entire film). The character of Hans Landa immediately became legendary and the whole world finally took notice of Christoph Waltz, who for this performance first won the Prix d’Intérpretation Masculine at the Cannes Film Festival, then a Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
As he himself admitted during his acceptance speech in Cannes, Christoph Waltz rediscovered his artistic vocation thanks to Quentin Tarantino. Thanks to him, everyone noticed his extraordinary talent. Now he no longer had to devote himself exclusively to supporting roles. Now he was one of the most popular actors in Hollywood. This success was followed by another Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (in 2012 for Django Unchained, also by Tarantino), as well as many other successful feature films, including Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011), Big Eyes (Tim Burton, 2014), Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015), Downsizing (Alexander Payne, 2017) and Georgetown, where Waltz worked as a director as well.
Quentin Tarantino is still a great friend of his. When the two met, something extraordinary was born, something that definitely made its mark on the seventh art world. Hans Landa is considered one of the best antagonists in film history today. Christoph Waltz is one of the many sources of pride for his beloved Austria.