Christoph Waltz on ‘Big Eyes,’ Bond and Why He Doesn’t Talk About Acting
Sorry to be so…” — long pause — “…all over the place.” Christoph Waltz isn’t a person you expect to be at a loss for what to say or unable to efficiently articulate, in crisp and clear diction, exactly what he means. Sure, the Austrian actor’s best-known characters — Inglourious Basterds‘ gleeful Nazi commandant Hans Landa and Django Unchained‘s frontier man-hunter King Schultz, both courtesy of Quentin Tarantino and both of which won him Oscars — have a tendency to be a little tangential in their conversations. But there’s almost always an ulterior motive to their meanderings, and when delivered with Waltz’s Cheshire-cat grin (it’s either ingratiating or psychotic — take your pick), they come laced with equal parts charm and menace that gets the point across immediately.
But when the 58-year-old star is asked to talk about playing his latest, somewhat less lethal protagonist — the conniving, aspiring painter Walter Keane in Tim Burton’s biopic Big Eyes — and specifically, about his initial approach when reading a new script, you can hear a bit of hesitation on the other end of the phone line. The process of spilling the beans about his process is not something Waltz relishes, but he takes a stab at it nonetheless; unsatisfied with the response he’s just given, the gentleman apologizes and starts again. He can’t seem to find the right words. Or maybe he simply doesn’t want to find them.
“There is a lot of talk about what actors do and [the] actors’ process and all this academic kind of thing, this drama-school talk,” he says. “All that shouldn’t be discussed in public. I don’t know why that’s turned into a general interest. It isn’t. The story is. The movie is. The finished piece is. How they got there is really, in my opinion, not the public’s business.”
In fact, the process of creation, and taking ownership for the result, plays a central role in Big Eyes. Waltz’s Eisenhower-era bohemian Walter is a failed artist who blithely takes credit for the paintings of his wife, Margaret Keane (played by Amy Adams), as her eerie, oddly adorable portraits of big-eyed children begin to attract attention. The more her/their kitschy work starts to become a mid-century populist sensation, the more Walter begins to slowly assert his dominance over her through intimidation and emotional manipulation. And yet, Waltz also manages to humanize this monster, portraying a ruthless con-artist forever wounded by the realization that he’ll never be the real thing — actual talent eludes his oily grip.
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