Christoph Waltz on Playing a Horrible Boss in the Comedy Sequel


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Christoph Waltz has won two Academy Awards, for roles directly commenting on Nazi Germany and American slavery.

He also stars in the raunchy comedy Horrible Bosses 2, the sequel to the smash hit 2011 comedy about three working class antiheroes played by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day, who turn to crime to resolve their problems with their day jobs.

Do you see a discrepancy there? Because Christoph Waltz sure doesn’t.

In Horrible Bosses 2, Waltz plays Bert Hanson, a tycoon who swindles the heroes of the original film out of their American Dream. So naturally, they plan to kidnap Hanson’s son Rex, played by Chris Pine. Although the film is a broad comedy involving sex, violence and lousy southern accents, Waltz only took on the role because he found something deeper in the narrative. sat down with Christoph Waltz to discuss the deeper meaning of Horrible Bosses 2 and why he normally isn’t a fan of this kind of comedy. 

Christoph Waltz: What’s that on your wrist? Oh, I was at the AFI Premiere of Inherent Vice, and this let me get in.
Waltz: Oh! This morning?

CS: No, it was the other day. [Starts taking off the wristband]
Waltz: No, leave it on! Leave it on!

CS: I leave it on because it makes me look cool.
Waltz: You seem to like it. 

CS: I do. It makes people think I go to cool parties.
Waltz: Well, you know…

CS: Right?
Waltz: Did you like it?

CS: I did. Have you seen it yet?
Waltz: No, I haven’t.

CS: It’s fantastic. Are you Paul Thomas Anderson fan?
Waltz: Not a fan, but I like the movies and I like to watch the development and what comes after the next and all that.

CS: It’s so cool that you like to watch the development. I think that’s something that a lot of people at home find increasingly fascinating. That’s all new stories are, a lot of time, is watching how things develop
Waltz: No, it’s interesting to…What other advantage would there be in getting older? It’s interesting to compare that to, I don’t know, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, all that.

CS: Are you a fan of this particular kind of comedy [Horrible Bosses 2]?
Waltz: No!

CS: No?
Waltz: Not at all.

christophwaltzhb22CS: Interesting. “Not at all?
Waltz: Not at all. You know, I like comedy a lot. I don’t like most comedies, because I don’t consider them relevant or funny. I consider this one relevant and funny.

CS: That’s good
Waltz: There is so much in it that is so cleverly hidden just below the…this word, “raunchy,”comes back during the press junkets. “Raunchy, raunchy, raunchy.”Yeah, raunchy, what does that mean? I’m not going for raunchy as raunchy.

I love the fact that all these really interesting aspects of our society, if you want, politically, socially, culturally, they’re all wrapped wonderfully in beautiful, colorful, glittery, silly paper. So I think, “Oh look, what have I got here? That’s so lovely. That’s so enjoyable.”And then, as a cultural experience so to say, which it is…I think I really admire the achievement to transport very difficult topics, very relevant topics. Wrap ‘em, serve ‘em digestibly, and you as an audience get your money’s worth whatever level you want to perceive it on.

CS: If you just want a laugh, that’s fine, but why not deliver something…?
Waltz: Why not have a specific reason for your laughter?

CS: Exactly.
Waltz: If you choose that, fine. If you don’t, fine! That’s really the function of comedy.

CS: I feel like the function of comedy, and even just the way that comedy works, is you place something in front of people and you prevent them from getting it in some way. Here it’s interesting, because getting it is often just as simple as selling out. Whether it’s selling out your business or selling out your marriage. Like, a LOT of the problems in this movie could be solved by just sleeping with Jennifer Aniston.
Waltz: Yeah. [Laughs.]

CS: I was like, “How hard is this? Just do it, man!” But Charlie Day has got his marriage. That’s actually kind of sweet.
Waltz: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. So there are all these things where you or I as an audience member can recognize ourselves, where we can identify to the degree that we consider “them”representing “us” in that situation. The bare function of storytelling. 

CS: It’s interesting because you represent an “other” in certain ways. Your character is just kind of a jerk on some levels, you represent a force so that the audience can go, “Yeah, screw that guy! I want to see that guy’s uppance come.” But then it comes a little too hard, if you ask me
Waltz: Well, that, but also this is pretty much what I’m referring to. He’s the one who always speaks the truth. And the truth is in the mouth of a jerk, but in our world that same truth is said by much bigger jerks, and much more powerful jerks. I have a few specific ones in mind…

CS: You want to call them out? On the record?
Waltz: It’s not difficult to make the connection. You know, “Only wealth creates wealth, not hard work.”

CS: That’s a very shocking statement, but in a way
Waltz: It’s the truth.

CS: Kind of, yeah.
Waltz: That’s the world we live in, and that’s the world they try to break into, not knowing that it is the world we live in. You know, personal profit no matter how. Ruthless profiteering, screwing the next guy over as [a] cavalier or even just spiteful endeavor, in order to screw them over. The advantage-seeking, purely egotistical end justifying that through God knows what, and in the end, the audacity to call it “The American Dream.” So once you see that it’s much easier to see why I was drawn to it, you know?

christophwaltzhb23CS: I could imagine you being drawn to it because maybe you thought it was funny. Do you ever approach a role just because you think it would be fun?
Waltz: No, I wouldn’t know how to do that, you see. I’m sort of a conventional actor. I need to know my bearings. I know the points and the coordinates and the parameters very precisely, more precisely. And I find them, the better for me to do what I do.

 CS: I loved your performance in The Green Hornet.
Waltz: Thank you.

CS: I thought the movie was really, really fun.
Waltz: Well, same thing.

CS: That’s exactly what I mean. You expressed an interesting aspect of a culture here, which is people who are not young or hip or have great PR people, having to change and become younger in order to survive. That was a very interesting dynamic, I thought.
Waltz: You get it. Exactly. Exactly. 

CS: The villain with a mid-life crisis I thought was very interesting.
Waltz: Yeah.

CS: I understand if you can’t talk about it, but I’m excited that you’re in a new Tarzan movie. The old Johnny Weismuller movies are my favorites. Do you approach Tarzan with that level of thinking? There’s a lot to be talked about
Waltz: I approach the world with that kind of thinking. So that’s an important of my role in my work.

CS: Is that exhausting after a while?
Waltz: That’s okay. 

CS: That’s okay?
Waltz: Yeah, nobody said it has to be easy. That’s another consumer myth, that it has to be easy. No.

CS: Doesn’t it occasionally get to be easy?
Waltz: No, sometimes it’s lighter as I grow older, but it’s not easier.

CS: When you’re working in the industry, do you ever come across people who don’t look at it that seriously?
Waltz: Absolutely. 

CS: Does that cause friction?
Waltz: Absolutely, but that’s okay. It takes all kinds to make a world. I don’t know, without wanting to be presumptuous I consider that my contribution, modest as it may be. That, what is it…a proverb, really…“It takes all kinds to make the…”What would you call that? A saying? 

CS: An axiom?
Waltz: Yeah, yeah. Well, that goes either way. It’s also true for myself! [Laughs.] It also takes me as an addition to, you know… 

CS: What do other people bring to the process, for you? It seems like you’ve got so much of your part in it, and also the greater context, thought out.
Waltz: In this specific project it was really the improvisational skill and mastership of these three guys. They are experienced comedians and actors with this skill that is almost alien to me, improvisation. So that was an interesting…I wouldn’t call it “confrontation,” but a sort of juxtaposition, maybe. 

CS: So you were always on script?
Waltz: Yeah.

CS: That’s interesting.
Waltz: Well, you know, again I consider that part of the actual role, to stick to the thing. Plow 9through.

Horrible Bosses 2 arrives in theaters on November 26, 2014.

(Photo Credit: Brian To/