Oscars: Michael Haneke, Christoph Waltz Win on Big Night for Austria

Scott Roxborough
The Hollywood Reporter
Oscars: Michael Haneke, Christoph Waltz Win on Big Night for Austria

It's been a long wait with several failed attempts, but Michael Haneke has finally won the best foreign language Oscar for his home country, Austria.

When Haneke's Amour was named as the award winner Sunday night, it marked the end of a long struggle by the Austrian government to have Haneke's films - many of which like Amour have been in French - accepted as properly Austrian in the eyes of the Academy.

Austria famously submitted Haneke's critically acclaimed drama Cache, which won him the best director award in Cannes, for the foreign language Oscar in 2006 - only to have it rejected on the grounds that the film's language (French) was not one spoken in Austria. The outrage surrounding that snub was one of the main drivers behind changes to the Academy laws regarding the foreign language category.

Foreign language films can now be in any language other than English. Their nationality is determined by the creative force behind the film.

While that has simplified things, it didn't help Austria in 2010. Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner The White Ribbon was a favorite for the best foreign language Oscar, but Germany - which had put up the bulk of financing and was home to lead producers X Filme - wanted to submit the film instead of Austria. In the end, Germany won out, and The White Ribbon received Oscar nominations in both the best foreign language category and for Austrian Christian Berger for best cinematography.

"It would have made sense for Austria to have submitted The White Ribbon, but, in the end, we have to admit that, for such a small country, we have been particularly blessed with cinema talent," Martin Schweighofer, managing director of the Austrian Film Commission, told THR.

He cited Stefan Ruzowitzky's The Counterfeiters, which won Austria its first-ever foreign language Oscar in 2008, and Gotz Spielmann's Revanche (Revenge), which received a nomination in the best foreign language category in 2009.

Alongside Haneke, that deep Austrian talent pool includes Vienna hometown hero Christoph Waltz, who took home his second best supporting actor Oscar Sunday for his role as German bounty hunter King Schultz in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Two Austrian Oscars in one night - that hasn't  happened since 1961, when Billy Wilder won three Oscars in a single year for The Apartment. The film took home the best picture, best director and best original screenplay honors that year.

Haneke had missed a big night for Amour at France's Cesar Awards Friday night to focus on the Oscars. He caught a flight from Madrid to LA Friday. That meant that Haneke also had to miss the Saturday premiere of the play Cosi di Tutti, which he is directing at Madrid's Teatro Real. He left a letter of apology and explanation for the audience.