“If it weren’t for the villain, Bond could stay at home and enjoy life.”As Franz Oberhauser, Christoph Waltz, 59, makes life hard for 007. And the two-time Oscar winner knows a thing or two about the hard life.
THE RED BULLETIN: What’s the primary role of a Bond villain?
CHRISTOPH WALTZ: To give Bond the chance to be a hero. If it weren’t for the villain, Bond could merely stay at home and enjoy life. It’s the villain who sets the drama in motion.
Do such adversaries exist in real life?
Absolutely, but don’t forget the importance of different opinions. Life would be unbearable if everyone agreed on everything. Unbearable! The idea that we have to even out all our differences in order to achieve unity is hokum. We don’t all have to be alike and of the same opinion. We simply have to act with decency and deal reasonably with our differences.
You know how it is when you think you’ve done everything right, but the other person thinks differently. How do you deal with that?
That’s what this job is all about. Otherwise, anyone could do it. Anyone can act, but not everyone can repeat things while altering certain nuances, working with real precision. With some directors, such fine-tuning can try your patience, but they demand that precisely because they have so much experience and perception. That’s what makes them the masters of their craft.
What attitude do you need to reach that level?
First of all, you’ve got to do your job right. Most people tend to forget that nowadays. All that matters to them is success. They want to be – not become – movie and TV stars. Of course, that makes for incredible disappointment, because it’s not what the job is about. It used to be about finding a shape for the content – or, if there was no content, to find one that you could give shape to. I’m very much of that school.
Does quality prevail?
Quality needs the opportunity to prevail. If the opportunity doesn’t arrive, quality does you a fat lot of good.
It took years for you to get the opportunity, didn’t it?
And then it becomes a matter of tenacity. In the early years of my career, I was doing insanely well, but then there was a miserably long stretch full of mediocre projects. It became so frustrating that I began to question everything. But, at the same time, you’ve got to invest a lot of your means to really do things right. I don’t just mean intensity and concentration, but also time. If you want to master a craft like this, 30 years is nothing.
Why did you decide to stick with acting?
When you’re facing practical constraints, you don’t ask yourself that question. You simply have to carry on. I’m a staunch proponent of soldiering on, even when you’re at the highest level.
By practical constraints, do you mean taking care of your family?
Of course. If I happen to be in Germany and turn on the TV, I see all this unspeakable stuff starring people who are possibly promising and talented. What are they supposed to do? They have to earn their living.
How did you get beyond that stage?
I got lucky. Nothing more. Early on in my career, I had an appointment with a well-known Broadway producer. She told me straight away, “I can tell by looking at you that you’re a fantastic actor. But let me tell you: people don’t give a shit. The only thing that matters is who you know and who you can meet.” I’ve only been able to meet whoever I want since Inglourious Basterds.
How do you get professional satisfaction before that? In the work itself?
Are there other ways to compensate for that?
I’m afraid we won’t be able to reduce this to digestible soundbites. It’s different for everyone, and it depends on the day. There are no hard and fast rules like the glossy magazines would have you believe. There’s only one thing that helps: to carry on!