American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is considered by many to be one of the greatest directors of our time. Since the very beginning of his illustrious career, Tarantino has created masterpieces like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. He has maintained that artistic momentum in recent years, garnering multiple accolades as well as universal acclaim for his last project, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Tarantino has contributed to the construction of various memorable characters, some of which have been immortalised by popular culture. However, the filmmaker has a personal favourite which he considers to be the “most fun character” he has created. While many people will immediately think of Samuel L. Jackson’s brilliant performance as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, Tarantino is actually talking about Inglorious Basterds.
In Tarantino’s 2009 World War II thriller, Christoph Waltz stars as Hans Landa – the primary antagonist of Inglorious Basterds, who is given the ominous nickname of ‘the Jew Hunter’ for his ability to track down and persecute Jewish refugees as an SS officer. Although Tarantino initially wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role, he later changed his mind and stated that the film could not have been made without Waltz.
For his mesmerising performance, Waltz received the Best Actor prize at Cannes as well as Golden Globe and Oscar wins, among other prestigious accolades. Waltz’s impact on the production was so great that Tarantino decided to change his approach, asking the actor to abstain from rehearsing with the rest of the cast in order to maintain the shock factor of his performance and capture genuine reactions.
“I got together with Christoph before we got to the big script reading with the cast,” Tarantino said. “I told him, ‘I’m not doing this to be perverse game playing…everybody is so curious about who is playing Hans Landa. I don’t want you to be bad at the script reading, but I want you to hold a lot back. I do not want them to think that they are getting a glimpse of who you are really going to be. On a scale of one to 10, be a six. Be good enough, just good enough. I do not want you to be in a competition with anybody, and if you are in competition then lose. I don’t want them to know what you have or for them to have a handle on Landa.”
It ended up working out perfectly as Waltz shocked both his colleagues as well as audiences who were taken aback by his interpretation of the banality of evil. According to Waltz, Landa was not a Nazi but an inhuman agent of destruction who happened to be wearing a Nazi uniform because it made it easier for him to perpetrate genocide.
“The minute he enters a scene, he dominates it,” Tarantino praised Waltz’s rendition. “All the things that he was supposed to be good at, he was that good at them. I found I had a really interesting situation with him that has been hard to have with any other character.”