Christoph Waltz: A Biography
Christoph Waltz knew at an early age that acting would be his life. Born into a theater family, Waltz found the stage his home and the place where he felt most comfortable. Although he launched his career in 1977 on German television, he earned the badge of international superstar only after thirty-two years.
Waltz was born in Vienna on October 4, 1956 to Elisabeth, a costume designer, and Johannes, a stage builder and set designer. His grandparents included Maria Mayen and Emmerich Reimers, who were both actors. Even his great grandparents worked in the theater umzugsfirma wien. His German-born father, who passed away when he was only seven years old, filed for German citizenship for him shortly after he was born, and Waltz continues to hold dual citizenship.
Studies were important to Waltz, and he stayed in Vienna to attend the Theresianium and Billrothstrasse. After graduation, he immersed himself in acting at the Max Reinhardt Seminar and then landed a role in “Parole Chicago,” a German television series. In 1979, he moved to New York City to continue his studies at the Lee Strasberg Institute, where he was fortunate enough to be able to study method acting under the guidance of both Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg.
Shortly after graduation from the Institute, Waltz met up with a Hollywood agent who was visiting the city and told him of his dream of working in movies out in California. The agent quickly told him that because of his background, he was probably destined to spend his acting career playing small Nazi-type roles.
Love struck while he was in New York City, and Waltz met and married his first wife. They subsequently moved to Vienna, where they stayed for a few years before packing their bags for London. While he initially focused on starting a family and launching his stage career, he wound up capturing the hearts of the British with his appearance in two British miniseries: “The Gravy Train” and “The Gravy Train Goes East.” He eventually began commuting from London to Berlin, where he continued to hone his acting chops.
During the ’80s and ’90s, Waltz cultivated a successful acting career in Germany on the stage, in television, film and even audiobooks. While most of his roles were those of villainous characters on various police dramas, his role as a Polish priest, Father Kilbe, in the 1991 hit “Leben Fur Leben” catapulted him to mega stardom in Germany. He made his directorial debut in Germany on the television show “Wenn Man Sich Traut.”
He was introduced to Quentin Tarantino in the early 2000s, and it is almost certain that neither of them understood how fateful the meeting was. At the time, Tarantino was ready to throw in the towel on a project he was working on, “Inglorious Basterds,” because he couldn’t find the right actor to play the pivotal role of Colonel Hans Landa.
Waltz, who is fluent in several languages, convinced Tarantino to give him a chance in the role that would require him to speak four languages: Italian, German, French, and English. While the character of the evil Nazi is exactly the stereotype that caused him to leave the United States earlier in his career, he knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The film opened to mixed reviews, but Waltz’s performance earned critical acclaim and catapulted him into the limelight. He eventually won twenty-seven awards for his role in the movie, including a Golden Globe, Academy Award, BAFTA award, and the coveted Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.