Quentin Tarantino, one of Hollywood's most influential directors, said his multi-Oscar nominated movie "Inglourious Basterds" would never have been made were it not for a relatively unknown Austrian actor called Christoph Waltz – despite having cast Brad Pitt as the lead.
Tarantino's movie revolves around a hillbilly from the South, Lt. Aldo Raine, played by Pitt, who starts a resistance movement with eight Jewish American soldiers who are dropped behind enemy lines. Waltz plays the charismatic yet sadistic Nazi Colonel Hans "The Jew Hunter" Landa.
Before Tarantino met Waltz, he said he wasn't able to find the perfect actor for the role. The actor had to be not only fluent in at least three languages (the film was shot in English, French and German) but he also had to have a unique mastery of the English language. Tarantino said he got so nervous he nearly pulled the plug on the entire movie until "Christoph, pardon the pun, waltzed into the room," he told ABC News Now's "Popcorn With Peter Travers" last year.
Waltz, who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival last May, was nominated in February for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category. He joins Matt Damon for "Invictus," Woody Harrelson for "The Messenger," Christopher Plummer for "The Last Station" and Stanley Tucci for "The Lovely Bones."
"It took me a long time to say the word Oscar, but after the nomination I thought I might as well start," Waltz said in a recent interview with Travers."
Waltz is considered an Oscar shoe-in, having already won the Golden Globe and SAG awards for the same category.
"It turns into this little gang – one of the nicest things of being on this [awards] circuit. We keep on meeting and get better acquainted. One of the overwhelming aspects has been how supportive the others are," he said.
All this national and international acclaim came as a surprise for the talented actor, who experienced the awards whirlwind for a first time.
"It's not only a circuit, it's also a circus and as much fun … The accolades, the appreciation and the acknowledgment is overwhelming but one huge constant compliment – may I confess, I love it!," said Waltz.
Waltz got his extraordinary role through a "very traditional even old fashioned" audition. Usually in auditions, an actor is sent a paragraph, which he reads with no idea of the role or the script. However, with Tarantino, "you get an envelope in the mail that weighs a ton (and has) the full script. You get a handwritten cover page. By pulling the script out of the envelope, you enter into a relationship with the author before even reading it," explained Waltz.
The actor found the acclaimed director to be a "polished gentleman who was polite and accommodating" – a far cry from his "eccentric l'enfant terrible" image.
"I reacted very favorably to that. It deflated all the pressure," acknowledged Waltz.
He met with Tarantino and his producer Lawrence Bender in a big room with a table, where the script lay closed. After chatting with him, the director politely asked Waltz, "Would you mind if we read a bit?" "It was the ultimate high tea," said the actor with a smile. Not only did they read the entire script, but Tarantino asked Waltz to translate the relevant parts into French and German, which he did. "Quentin is able to direct in all the languages even though he doesn't speak them," noted Waltz.