Christoph Waltz won two Oscars for portraying diabolically snarky characters – a cunning Nazi in “Inglourious Basterds, a sly bounty hunter in “Django Unchained” – and now he’s back in contention for his role in “Big Eyes” as the bawdy plagiarist Walter Keane, who took credit for his wife’s mega-selling artwork of forlorn waifs in the 1950s to 1980s.
“The great thing about playing a part like this is that I remember these paintings as a kid and I remember people’s opinions of them, which certainly differed,” he says in our podcast chat. (Listen in, below.) “All of that gives way to lots of interesting speculation about the time, the culture, the society.”
Keane was a flamboyant charlatan who ended up being unmasked as a fraud when sued by his wife Margaret in 1986 and Waltz exults in portraying his “volatile” personality with brazen abandon. He says of the role, “If you don’t have to bear the consequences in real life, meaning you can play it without running the danger of being punished, it is a wonderful, wonderful gift to receive.”
Waltz gives credit to director Tim Burton, “who gives you perspective and the whole world of his vision,” he says. “It makes you fly like a kite.”
Whenever Waltz takes on such high-profile roles, Oscar buzz automatically follows. How does he cope with the pressure? Expectations can run high considering he’s gone two for two nominations. He’s never lost.
“I don’t engage in award speculation,” he says. “I do my work. If it is recognized and, in the end, rewarded by being handed an award, this is an immense honor and a delight. It’s also a beautiful feeling and gives you a rush, but it’s not what I do. What I do is come up with the material for the director to come up with a movie …. I can’t lose. I played this part.”
BELOW: Listen to our podcast chat.