Christoph Waltz
Photo by Austin Hargrave

Christoph Waltz: “It has nothing to do with the job”

Short Profile

Name: Christoph Waltz
DOB: 4 October 1956
Place of birth: Vienna, Austria
Occupation: Actor

Mr. Waltz, what specifically makes you interested in taking on a film role?

That is absolutely irrelevant. The important thing is: what makes the audience interested in it? Of course, I don’t take on any roles that don’t interest me, or where I can’t find anything for myself in it. But I don’t like talking about that. If you go into a restaurant and you have been served an exquisite meal, you don’t need to know how the chef felt, or when he chose the vegetables on the market. I always feel a little like I would pull the rug out from under myself if I were to I speak about the background of my work. My explanations would come into conflict with the reason a movie is made in the first place — for the experience of the audience — and that, I would not want.

But is it at least an incentive, for example, to play a character that is not a villain?

That’s not something I think about. Whether someone is a villain or not, that’s up to the audience to decide, not me. Sometimes it is very interesting to speak to actors who perceived their role completely differently, who can’t understand why anyone would see them as “evil.”

“Just because you don’t have a burning passion for your job, does not automatically mean something is missing for you.”

So you don’t think about your image at all? Is that really something a Hollywood star can afford to do?

No idea! It could well be that it’s not something that anyone can really afford to do…. But it’s luxury that I allow myself.

Is passion also a luxury, in your opinion?

Passion basically has been declared a commodity of the moment. Everything has to be done with passion, people are being told that life will be more meaningful and more fulfilling if they follow their passions. But in the end, it’s just about selling something to someone. Live your passion! Find yourself. It’s all a load of nonsense.

What makes you think that?

Well, firstly, not everyone can stick it, to live their passion. And secondly, not everything is connected to passion. And third, not everyone might have these kinds of passion, so you can’t just make them appear out of thin air. Most importantly, there is no compelling factor, let alone a reason, to assume that anything will be improved if you live your passion. Just because you don’t have a burning passion for your job, does not automatically mean something is missing for you.

But for you, surely acting is a passion, no?

Not at all! It’s my profession, no different than it is for any other profession. In medicine, the best caregivers are those without passion. The doctors that are too passionate are very often the ones who make serious mistakes.

What mistakes would you make if you were an actor with passion?

The biggest of them all: I would try to convince you just how passionate I am. But actually, to me it’s all about the story. That there might be passion in there — or maybe you can’t completely free yourself of some passionate tendencies, that may well be. But it has nothing to the with the job itself.

You have experienced some dry spells yourself: for years you were not as successful as you are today. Don’t you need a certain kind of passion during those times, to keep going?

Not at all. What keeps you going is stubbornness, economic necessity, or simply endurance. Passion will, at most, lead to frustration, but not to perseverance. For that, you don’t need passion, you need persistence.

So you stuck with acting simply because you were too stubborn to give it up?

It was for exactly that range of reason! I didn’t know how else I would make a living. I couldn’t come up with anything else. It’s the same in anything, for that matter, whether it’s a job, a relationship, even a hobby that you follow for your own amusement: eventually, you get to the point where perseverance is what’s needed, not passion, if you want to get ahead.

“Just stick with it. When you keep going regardless, then that’s true perseverance right there.”

Can you learn that kind of perseverance?

Yes, you can. Just stick with it. But you have to practice. That’s not easy for most, they are just not good at it. But when you keep going regardless, then that’s true perseverance right there.

So would you say that you have any passions at all?

I do have a passion for good movies.

What have you seen recently outside of your own work that you liked?

I never watch my own movies anyway, I know them far too well already. There are certain genres I like to watch, Film Noir for example, especially old movies. And I like Italian comedies, from the fifties and sixties. Lately, I have watched a lot of Hal Ashby’s films because they have a kind of observation, that I really miss. They are stories that are about our lives, our world. When movies are good, they are really good. And those I watch, as you would say, passionately.