Good timing for Team 'Carnage.' On Thursday morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster in the Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy category at the Golden Globes, less than 24 hours before the new Roman Polanski film is scheduled to arrive in limited release. Kismet! Unfortunately, 'Carnage's' best performer, Christoph Waltz, didn't bask in the glow of the Globes. Not that Waltz probably minds. As he told Moviefone last month, the idea of running the four co-stars of 'Carnage' (John C. Reilly completes the foursome) as anything other than supporting actors and actresses for award consideration was "ludicrous." Which might as well be another name for the Golden Globes.
Based on the hit play by Yasmina Reza -- the Broadway version of which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2009 -- 'Carnage' focuses on two increasingly inebriated and hostile couples, the Longstreets (Reilly and Foster) and the Cowans (Waltz and Winslet), who meet at in a Brooklyn apartment to discuss the fight their sons got in on the playground. Waltz, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 'Inglourious Basterds' in 2009, plays Alan Cowan, a calculating and detached business shark who cuts through much of the discussions that ensue with a cold-hearted clarity. Though what else would you expect from the guy who played Hans Landa.

Waltz rang up Moviefone last month to discuss 'Carnage,' debate whether the film is too theatrical, his busy year of four releases, and 'Django Unchained.'

How familiar were you with the play before accepting the role?
Well, I've seen it. I've seen it once.

The Broadway version?
No, I saw it years before! I know Americans have that tendency to consider the Broadway version the original. It's not! It's five or six years after the original. The original was in Zurich, and oddly enough, even though it was written in French, it was in German -- the original. I saw it there.

What, if anything, do you remember about that production?
I remember that I just loved the parts. I loved the roles. I loved the characters. Even though I rarely do that, I thought, "Hmm, hmm, I could play either one." [Laughs]

These are meaty roles in the film, with lots of dialogue. It feels very theatrical at times...
Well, no, I disagree. I'm sorry to interrupt. I don't think the movie is theatrical. Because what would that be? On the contrary, I think it is highly cinematic. As cinematic as it gets. Just because it's a confined space doesn't mean it's not cinematic. Just because the camera movements are not from thirty-foot cranes swooping over Death Valley and behind the racing stagecoach doesn't mean it's not cinematic. Everything affords a little more attention to detail. But, I wonder -- and it would be an interesting discussion to entertain for some time -- I wonder whether that's not actually more cinematic than technological efforts to prove the point.

I would agree with that. I meant that the performances themselves are -- well, not stagey, because that might be an insult...
Well, not necessarily.

OK, well, it's just that you don't often see broad performances like these in typical movies.
Yes, yes. Absolutely. Yet, the confinement of the space, I claim, doesn't make it less cinematic. And I wonder whether it's not to the contrary.

You were born in Austria, you shot the film in Paris and it takes place in New York. And the New York aspect of it is key, because the couples are very specific Park Slope-types. How did you get inside the mindset of the slick Park Slope shark when you're not filming here?
That really is a huge compliment, because you, as a New Yorker, think that. That means something. If someone who has visited New York twice for three days says, "Well, it reminded me of New York!" That would be meaningless. You saying that is a huge compliment.

It's a difficult thing to accomplish, especially not being in New York for the shoot.
Well, it is. We wanted that and we worked on it. Polanski is not just a master of where to place the camera, he's also a master at creating very specific atmospheres and guiding you to a very specific behavior. That's what the attempt was, let's call it such. Apparently, according to you, it was successful. So, thank you!

[Laughs] Well, you're welcome. How much preparation did you do before? Was there an extreme amount of rehearsals?
We had two weeks of rehearsals. Which is, for the regular movie, a luxury. For this, it was just barely enough. But not because we had more problems to solve. After eight days we started run-throughs of the whole thing. Had we rehearsed another week or two, we could have performed it on the stage.

That could be next -- you four can go on a nationwide tour.
That would be fun. [Laughs]

You're working with three other major actors -- two other Oscar winners and an Oscar nominee -- so...
Did we fight?

Well, yes. Was there any competition between you four?
No, no. That's the one complement Roman paid us, and he doesn't do that lightly. At one point we asked him, "Can you tell us a little bit how it is, how it's going, how we are?" And he said, "Do you want me to stroke your ego?" Sorta grinning, because it's a quote from the play. The one big compliment he paid us was that he's never worked with a group of actors where there was no oneupmanship. And he's absolutely right! Yet, I credit him with putting this group of actors together.

Why do you think Polanski keeps drawing in such major acting talent?
Well, you know, really, not every actor is drawn to him, by the way. There have been incidents where the actors have said, "Sorry, I can't do this," and left. It's where your preferences are. I don't think you're an idiot if you can't cope with that. It's really where your preferences are, and where they are is a matter of choice. There are actors who choose not to work that way. It's their right! I just happen to love it. This overly precise, 100-percent concrete, to-the-point, and, in a way, almost pedantic approach to what it is that we're doing. It does make a difference whether you're here or there, even if the distance between the two is a half an inch. It does make a difference. It's up to you to decide how far you want to get into the details.

How does his style compare to, say, Quentin Tarantino?
I wouldn't compare them at all. It would be one of the silliest attempts ever. How would you compare a race horse to a -- no, that's already casting a value. How would you compare -- I don't know -- a horse to a bicycle?

Well, they both move places. They both can get you somewhere.
They both move, exactly! If you put in a little effort they move faster.

You had a lengthy career before 'Inglourious Basterds,' but that movie put you on the map for American audiences. How do you keep that momentum and goodwill from 'Basterds' consistent?
It's not been that long. The discussion would be really interesting about ten years from now. It has been two years and it has been developing nicely. Apart from the fact that I'm really thrilled and happy about it and grateful still, it's ... I don't know. I work with people who are fantastic. All of them. I don't work with many people around me. Agents and publicists. I don't travel with an entourage. I don't believe in that. But I work with the best. And "best" means best for me. It might be not the best for the next guy, but what do I care about the next guy? Again, same thing: it's always about what it is that we want to do and not how we want to push myself in the foreground. That might be a result or not. That's not something to be anticipated. We just want to do the good work.

;Carnage' is the fourth film of yours getting released this year. It has been a comically busy year for you ...
That's a good way of putting it. [Laughs]

... so was there a strategy or anything with these choices?
No, no. There are certain criteria by which you arrive at a decision, and they're not fixed. They're not law. They're not gospel. These criteria are dynamic -- let's put it that way. It needs to be the right combination of things and people. There's no big mystery. You go very much by your feeling. As you said, I've been around the block for a week-and-a-half already, so your instincts are not just your inspiration, but based on experience. You can be totally wrong. Of course you can! But, with some experience -- and you do try to keep your sense of humor and common sense -- usually you take a step in the right direction. Even though it might not be the hoped for grand success, but you can't win them all.

That sounds like maybe 'The Three Musketeers.' I know that was a disappointment both financially and critically.
That happens. It's part of the game.

You've got 'Django Unchained' coming up. It was reported that you were injured while training, so is it safe to say this role is way more physical than Hans Landa was?
It's a Western. Things happen in a Western. You don't do a Western on a bicycle. Even though, in 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' there's this big sequence on a bicycle!

Of course, that's one of the most famous scene in the whole movie.

So, I guess you can do a Western on a bicycle. But you were on a horse.
Yeah. But it's OK. It wasn't a big deal.

Back to 'Carnage,' before we say goodbye: I know Sony is planning on running all four of you in the supporting categories...
Anything else would be ludicrous! The degree to which I, personally -- I speak for myself -- depended on the others, and I think the way the others depended on the others, anything wouldn't make any sense whatsoever. Anything else is completely out of the question. You might as well run all four of us for Best Sound Design.

[Photo: AFP/Getty]


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categories Interviews, Movies, Awards