Interview: Christoph Waltz of Horrible Bosses 2

Double Oscar winner won't improvise but gets the last laugh


HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 directed by Sean Anders, written by Anders and John Morris, with Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Christoph Waltz. A Warner Bros. release. 108 minutes. Now playing. For venues and times, see Movies.


LOS ANGELES – Christoph Waltz does not like to riff. And he’s okay with it.

Earlier in the day, the two-time Oscar winner endured the press conference for Horrible Bosses 2, where he was the only cast member who didn’t have a wacky story about the craziest thing he said or did in the movie – partially because the movie doesn’t require him to get as crazy as co-stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Jennifer Aniston, and partially because he doesn’t improvise. Like at all.

His co-stars razzed him affectionately for this, and Waltz played along, but it was clear he wasn’t just doing a bit. When we sit down together in more reasonable circumstances later that day, the first thing I ask him is how real his discomfort was.

“I really am extremely uncomfortable,” he says. “And also I have sort of academic objections. I’m not the writer. Why would I, in the best case, interfere with the writer, and in the worst case, help the writer out? It’s not what I do. If you want me to write a script, ask me to write a script I don’t know whether I can do it, but that’s a clear deal. But don’t put a script in front of me and then ask me to do it differently. Put a different script in front of me.”

Waltz doesn’t come across as angry or argumentative, mind you. He’s speaking with the same genial rhythms you’ve heard in Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, Carnage and even that regrettable Green Hornet movie. (I can’t wait to see him play Blofeld in the next James Bond picture, as reported earlier this week.)

As an actor, he projects a quality of being the most reasonable person in the room – even when, as in Basterds, he is most certainly not.

It’s the perfect attitude for his character in Horrible Bosses 2, an entirely respectable mogul who sets the master plot in motion when he pleasantly screws the boneheaded heroes (Bateman, Sudeikis and Day) out of a lucrative business deal.

Somehow, Waltz’s discomfort with everyone else’s looser style of acting becomes one of the funniest things in Horrible Bosses 2. His refusal to engage reads as the act of a man who’s blundered into a world of maniacs. His professional demeanour becomes its own running joke.

“Absolutely!” he says. “I was talking to Ralph Fiennes yesterday – we had a round table [for another event], the actors – and the subject came to self-consciousness. Ed Norton raised that subject. And I said, ‘Yes, sometimes you have to deal with self-consciousness, but that’s not a bad thing. There’s no moral aspect to self-consciousness sometimes it’s the exact right thing.'”

He discusses his Horrible Bosses character as a cog in a larger machine – again, not disparagingly, but semiotically.

“Comedy is about specific mechanics,” he says. That leads to a conversation about Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye To Language 3D (I’ve seen it he hasn’t and is very curious) and theories of acting.

“How do I lead an audience?” he asks rhetorically. “How do I pull you in? Because it’s about you it’s not about me. I recently read something that made such an impression on me, something that Harrison Ford said. He said, ‘My job as an actor is not to show you how close I am to the character. My job is to show you how close you are to the character.’

“That’s such a smart thing to say,” Waltz says. “Because [otherwise] why tell the story in the first place? Just to while the time away?”

Interview Clip

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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