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08.18.09

Tarantino's Star Also a Critic

Christoph Waltz—the terrifying yet perversely likable Nazi colonel in Inglourious Basterds—doesn’t love all of his director’s films and is annoyed by questions about how the movie will be received in Germany. Lloyd Grove gets the details.

Austrian actor Christoph Waltz—the breakout star of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds—can’t be accused of sucking up to the director.

“I’m not a fan of all of his movies,” Waltz told me at Monday night’s New York screening of the World War II fantasy film, surveying the Tarantino oeuvre. “ Jackie Brown is my favorite,” he said. “I don’t know—I guess because his fortes are kind of condensed and distilled there, rather than displayed.”

Waltz—who plays the simpering, conniving, and terrifying (yet perversely likable) Colonel Hans Landa, aka “The Jew Hunter”—is so compelling precisely because he isn’t a typical morality-play Tarantino villain. His delicately drawn portrayal (punctuated by a moment or two of deft hysteria) steals the show from Brad Pitt, the nominal star.

The movie itself, which could have been called Kill Adolf, is rife with Tarantino’s trademark cartoonish hyper-violence (I repeatedly had to turn away from the head-bashings and scalpings of German soldiers). It also boasts some enjoyably sinister scenes, fast-paced storytelling, and Waltz’s iconic performance.

“I’m not a fan of all of his movies,” Waltz told me at Monday night’s New York screening of the World War II fantasy film, surveying the Tarantino oeuvre.

And how will Inglourious Basterds be received in Germany, the nation it zestfully demonizes?

“That question really starts to irritate me slightly,” Waltz scolded, “because it kind of implies that Germans don’t want their führer to be damaged. And it’s absolutely far-fetched, this opinion, because in Germany, more than anywhere else in the world, this fantasy [of revenge against the Nazis] is alive and thriving. And it is complicated. This is now three generations after. You cannot entirely disregard these three generations. They grew up with this history. They grew up with that burden. And they have to deal with it responsibly.”

Paul Cullum: Tarantino's Glorious Nazi

Caryn James: Heil, Tarantino! His Best Since 'Pulp Fiction'

Kim Masters: My Father, The Inglourious Basterd

Lee Siegel: Tarantino's Hollow Violence
Waltz added: “I don’t consider this an irresponsible approach because it does not deny the Holocaust. It does not deny the catastrophe. It just does what art is supposed to do—offer an alternative perspective on our world.”

Meanwhile, Tarantino’s knack for rabble-rousing would have fit nicely at a town-hall meeting. After being introduced by a subdued Harvey Weinstein—apparently licking his wounds from Sunday’s brutal New York Times  profile—the director practically ate the microphone at the School of Visual Arts.

“ARE YOU GETTING READY TO SEE SOME BASTERDS?” Tarantino demanded of his screening audience. Receiving what, to his mind, was obviously a tepid response, Tarantino shouted at ear-splitting volume: “I SAID—ARE YOU READY TO SEE SOME BASTERDS FUCK UP SOME NAZIS?” Yeaaahh, the crowd murmured. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU, MOTHERFUCKERS!” YEEAAHH, the crowd roared back. “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT! BRING IT, NEW YORK! HERE WE GO! IN-GLOOOOOOOUR-IOUS BASTEE-EE-ERDS! ENJOY!”

Later on, rattled moviegoers sipped Grey Goose cocktails at the Standard Hotel, at an afterparty hosted by the Cinema Society and Hugo Boss.

Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.