Profile: Christoph Waltz

Profile: Christoph Waltz

Two-time Oscar winner on his latest film, working with Tim Burton, choosing roles, and the role of critcs

Katherine McLaughlin catches up with two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz, ahead of his turn as art plagiarist Walter Keane in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes

Background: Born in Vienna, Christoph Waltz had been acting for many years before he got his first big Hollywood break in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as the evil Col. Hans Landa, for which he was awarded the Oscar for best supporting actor. Since then he has worked with Terry Gilliam on Zero Theorem, Roman Polanski on Carnage and reunited with Tarantino for Django Unchained, which bagged him his second Academy Award.

What's next? Waltz takes on the role of art plagiarist Walter Keane alongside Amy Adams in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, which tells the stranger than fiction tale in which Walter took credit for his wife Margaret’s paintings and fooled the art world for many years.

On working with Tim Burton: ‘It's his very personal view that makes him so interesting to work with. He has a very specific perspective on life on Earth. Which is wonderful to tap in to. Some of my favourite movies are made by him. I like Big Fish.’

On his preparation for the role of Walter Keane: ‘[Keane] did write an autobiography which is not really useful as it's hugely exaggerated to make a very decisive point about taking revenge and clearing his name. It's delusional rambling. The script provides enough interesting leads to follow and look into.’

On his criteria for choosing a role: ‘It's like a very detailed concoction, you brew that up and all the ingredients have to be right for me to swallow. Of course it's the story most importantly and then the character but equally important would be the filmmaker, the other actors, the greater context, how it fits into my life, how it fits into what I perceive is important to tell.’

On critics: ‘I concur with the art critic in the movie who explains why critics are important, yet they might be important for other reasons they believe they are. To offer different perspectives and put the art that is being criticised in different context. Not really to pass judgement, because thank you very much I'll either do it myself or in my case make a great effort not to do it myself. Passing judgement will finish the thing, it will finish the discourse, and the beauty of art is that it's not finished, it continues through being perceived and since the means of perception change all the time there's a dynamic to be experienced.’

On how he felt when he won his first Oscar: ‘Have you ever experienced something that came out like a lightning flash of blue skies? It doesn't always have to be a positive experience. An accident happens like that. When it happens your cognitive apparatus is not tuned into that, so the figure of speech "I can't believe it" is literally true. When it happens you can't believe it. I'm not quick enough to switch the whole system off, so it all sinks in afterwards. So I can't really tell you about the actual experience other than the blank.’

Big Eyes is on general release from Fri 26 December.

Big Eyes - Official Trailer

Big Eyes

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp
  • UK release: 26 December 2014

Biopic of Margaret Keane (Adams), whose paintings of women and children with oversized eyes became all the rage in the 60s – except that husband Walter (Waltz) took all the credit. Adams is superb but despite thoughtful touches, the treatment of her character's psychological abuse is unsatisfying.