Christoph Waltz ponders American gun culture and Tarantino revenge
Christoph Waltz (Photo: Getty Images)
Since our discussion at Comic-Con on July 14, 2012, there have been at least eight mass shootings in the U.S. and, as I write this, a gunman is on the loose, putting the greater Los Angeles area on high alert.
Waltz, a European, born in Vienna, Austria, explains how one outsider perceives this uniquely -- and deadly -- U.S. phenomenon. And, oh yeah, the 56-year-old actor also sheds light on his acting method and ponders Tarantino's preoccupation with revenge:
Christoph Waltz: A story asks for a certain setting and it requires different ways of attention and it was much more the confrontation with this chapter of American history -- and I'm not necessarily referring to slavery. Just pre-Civil War America and how much all of a sudden explained itself to me in my limited way...I've read into it a little bit, and my puzzlement about America today -- found a lot of explanation in its historical background. You know, "What's their obsession with them moment you show a square inch of naked screen." If it's on the wrong spot of your body everybody goes up in arms! Yet we have no problem showing to four year olds how people bash each other's mugs in and splatter blood all over. [Impersonating "Joe Schmo America"] "Kids need to be confronted with the reality."
What's this awkward mixture of puritanism and ultra violence? How does it fit together? I never could understand. Also, the obsession with arms that is "constitutional"... We've come around to understanding that the Constitution is one of the basic and greatest bodies of enlightened thinking, yet, from the 18th century -- excuse me -- and now we're in the 21st. Whereas newly emerging [nations] used to take the American Constitution as -- not necessarily a blueprint -- but as an example. That hasn't happened for the past 30 years... Stuff like that that I didn't expect in my work for a Spaghetti Western.
Meriah Doty: Since you were in "Inglorious Basterds" too, boiled down, both of these films are revenge films of disenfranchised people. Maybe you have insight as to why Tarantino is preoccupied with that theme?
Waltz: It seems to be one of the guiding themes to Tarantino's work: revenge in various degrees, in various applications. To me, personally, revenge is not really that much of an interest. In a story it always is, because you now have to make a moral choice. Whose side am I on? And in Quentin's stories, it's not always clear. "Inglorious Basterds" was a good example. In this movie ["Django Unchained"], I'm the good guy and I kill a lot more people than in "Inglorious Basterds" where I was a bad guy... So, revenge, yeah, I have no insight -- maybe I do, and if I did, I wouldn't disclose. I don't really. I speculate as much as you do.
[When preparing for a role] I like to think about these things a little more precisely and try to separate the ingredients a little bit in order to be able to look at them. Not that I know much about it, but I would like to see the things to do what I think my job is to actually say, "What is this?" By me saying, "What is this?" and trying to figure it out, you watch that and you don't say, "Ooh Christoph has a grey beard" -- you also say, "What is this? He's right." Full stop.