After working in Europe for decades, Christoph Waltz caught the attention of American movie-goers with his critically acclaimed performance in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" (2006). Acting comes naturally to Waltz, who was born into a theatrical family in Vienna, Austria, on October 4, 1956. He is the son of set designers, and his grandparents were actors. "The one advantage of having grown up in the business is that you don't romanticize it," he told the Hollywood Reporter.
Starting in his late teens, Waltz started working as an actor. He studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and later at the Max Reinhardt Seminar. In the late 1970s, Waltz spent some time in New York City where he studied method acting with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler.
Waltz first found success in the theater, and then on television. He and his wife moved to London in the late 1980s where he appeared in two British miniseries, "The Gravy Train" and "The Gravy Train Goes East." Waltz also starred as Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and theologian, in 1991's "Leben Fur Leben," a role that earned him great praise. Trying his hand at comedy, Waltz starred in 1998's "Love Scenes from Planet Earth." He then appeared in the 1999 mystery thriller "Falling Rocks."
Shortly before he starting working with Tarantino, Waltz mostly worked in television. He became known mainly for his villainous roles on German crime dramas. "German cop shows are not really what I became an actor for. I had made a lot of compromises over the years, and I had started to doubt myself ... The work with Quentin, it reminded me of why I wanted to be an actor," Waltz told the Hollywood Reporter.
Tarantino was prepared to scrap his film, "Inglorious Basterds" (2009), if he was unable to find the right actor to play Colonel Hans Landa, a multilingual Nazi known to be both charming and deadly. During the audition process, however, Tarantino began to wonder whether he "might have written an unplayable part," according to an interview in The New York Times. But Waltz allayed Tarantino's concerns as he deftly handled the role, which called on him to speak four languages: English, German, French, and Italian.
Waltz had previously turned down other opportunities to play a Nazi. "It wasn't for ideological reasons. It was because they were lousy parts. To do a lousy part and a Nazi' That's a bit much," he explained to Entertainment Weekly. While the film received some mixed reviews, Waltz received nearly universal raves for his work on "Inglorious Basterds." He has won several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and the Best Actor honors at the Cannes Film Festival. Waltz also nabbed the Academy Award in the 2009 for Best Supporting Actor.
After the success of "Inglorious Basterds," Waltz landed a variety of Hollywood film roles. He appeared in "The Green Hornet" (2011) with Seth Rogan as the titular crime fighter. That same year, Waltz starred in the circus drama "Water for Elephants" with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson and in Roland Polanski's dramatic comedy "Carnage" with Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly.
In 2012, Waltz debuted his latest work with Quentin Tarantino: "Django Unchained." He co-starred with Jamie Foxx in this pre-Civil War western, playing a former-dentist-turned-bounty hunter, who takes a freed slave named Django under his wing. Together they search for Django's wife (Kerry Washington), and work to get her away from her evil owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). Waltz picked up his second Academy Award for best supporting actor for his work on the film. In his acceptance speech, he expressed his "unlimited gratitude" to Tarantino and thanked his co-stars in the film.
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