Christoph Waltz on Choosing Roles: “Usually you take a step in the right direction… but you can’t win them all”

Oscar winner Christoph Waltz is currently enjoying a level of success that has previous avoided him in his three-decade career.

One of these accomplishments includes Carnage, the Roman Polanski adaptation of the successful play God of Carnage

While speaking with MovieFone, Waltz not only talks about his role in the film and how he prepared for it but what he has taken from his current success.

When the interviewer mentions that the film is dialogue-based and, as a result, seems theatrical, Waltz immediately disagrees, saying, “I don’t think the movie is theatrical. Because what would that be? On the contrary, I think it is highly cinematic. As cinematic as it gets. Just because it’s a confined space doesn’t mean it’s not cinematic. Just because the camera movements are not from thirty-foot cranes swooping over Death Valley and behind the racing stagecoach doesn’t mean it’s not cinematic.”  In Carnage the Austrian-born Waltz convincingly portrays a New York character, and he mentions that the production’s extensive rehearsals helped him prepare for the part.  He explains, “We had two weeks of rehearsals. Which is, for the regular movie, a luxury. For this, it was just barely enough. But not because we had more problems to solve. After eight days we started run-throughs of the whole thing. Had we rehearsed another week or two, we could have performed it on the stage.”

Polanski is obviously a controversial figure — he is a fugitive from the United States stemming from sexually assaulting a 13 year old in 1977 — yet despite this Polanski frequently has top-level acting talent still willing to work with him because of his artistic accomplishments and reputation for excellent films. 

Waltz disagrees that not every actor is willing to work with Polanski’s filmmaking style, pointing out, “Not every actor is drawn to him, by the way. There have been incidents where the actors have said, ‘Sorry, I can’t do this,’ and left. It’s where your preferences are. I don’t think you’re an idiot if you can’t cope with that. It’s really where your preferences are, and where they are is a matter of choice. There are actors who choose not to work that way. It’s their right! I just happen to love it. This overly precise, 100-percent concrete, to-the-point, and, in a way, almost pedantic approach to what it is that we’re doing. It does make a difference whether you’re here or there, even if the distance between the two is a half an inch. It does make a difference. It’s up to you to decide how far you want to get into the details.”

Though Waltz has been acting since the 1970s, he finally broke through to the mainstream following his Oscar-winning role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds

Nonetheless, Waltz credits his recent success to his collaborators, stating,  “The discussion would be really interesting about ten years from now. It has been two years and it has been developing nicely … I don’t know. I work with people who are fantastic. All of them. I don’t work with many people around me. Agents and publicists. I don’t travel with an entourage. I don’t believe in that. But I work with the best. And ‘best’ means best for me. It might be not the best for the next guy, but what do I care about the next guy? Again, same thing: it’s always about what it is that we want to do and not how we want to push myself in the foreground. That might be a result or not. That’s not something to be anticipated. We just want to do the good work.”

As for his 2011 film choices? While Waltz appears in the critically acclaimed Carnage, he also appeared in the lukewarm acclaimed Water for Elephants and the downright reviled Green Hornet and Three Musketeers — obviously very different productions.  How does he choose them?  “There are certain criteria by which you arrive at a decision, and they’re not fixed. They’re not law. They’re not gospel. These criteria are dynamic — let’s put it that way. It needs to be the right combination of things and people. There’s no big mystery. You go very much by your feeling. As you said, I’ve been around the block for a week-and-a-half already, so your instincts are not just your inspiration, but based on experience. You can be totally wrong. Of course you can! But, with some experience — and you do try to keep your sense of humor and common sense — usually you take a step in the right direction. Even though it might not be the hoped for grand success, but you can’t win them all.”

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