Quentin Tarantino has gone on record calling Hans Landa from “Inglourious Basterds” the most fun character he’s ever written. The writer-director joined Brian Koppelman’s “The Moment” podcast this week and discussed in detail the casting process for the villainous character, but even more interesting is what happened once Tarantino found his Hans Landa in Christoph Waltz. The actor was so astounding in the part that Tarantino decided to alter the way he prepped his actors during pre-production. Many of the non-German actors in the cast had no idea who Waltz was, and Tarantino wanted to shock them during filming.
“I got together with Christoph before we got to the big script reading with the cast,” Tarantino said. “I told him, ‘I’m not doing this to be perverse game playing…everybody is so curious about who is playing Hans Landa. I don’t want you to be bad at the script reading, but I want you to hold a lot back. I do not want them to think that they are getting a glimpse of who you are really going to be. On a scale of one to 10, be a six. Be good enough, just good enough. I do not want you to be in a competition with anybody, and if you are in competition then lose. I don’t want them to know what you have or for them to have a handle on Landa.”
Waltz agreed to Tarantino’s request, but the director didn’t stop there. “In that same vein, with the exception of the French farmer, I don’t want you rehearsing with the other actors before filming. I don’t want Diane Kruger or Brad Pitt to know your gun-slinging abilities until the cameras are rolling.”
Waltz agreed again, but he still wanted to rehearse his dialogue ahead of principal photography and asked Tarantino if he would help him. Tarantino agreed, and the two rehearsed the script together before filming. The only actor Tarantino allowed Waltz to rehearse with ahead of time was Denis Ménochet, who starred in the opening scene as French farmer Perrier LaPadite. The opening is an intense two-hander between Waltz and Ménochet, and Tarantino knew rehearsals between the two characters would be essential to pulling off the scene to maximum effect.
For his role as Hans Landa, Waltz won the Best Actor prize at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Tarantino told Empire magazine last summer that Hans Landa presented a unique set of challenges that he’s rarely faced when writing other characters.
“The minute he enters a scene, he dominates it,” Tarantino said of Hans. “All the things that he was supposed to be good at, he was that good at them. I found I had a really interesting situation with him that has been hard to have with any other character. It was the fact he was not only a bad guy, not only a Nazi, but a Nazi known as the Jew Hunter, who is finding Jews and sending them to the concentration camp, so when he shows up towards the end of the movie, kinda figuring out what the Basterds are doing, the audience wants him to.”
“They’re not rooting for him, but it’s a fucking movie, and if he figures it out it’s going to be a more exciting movie!” Tarantino continued. “You know, you don’t want him to let you down. We’ve set up that he knows everybody’s secrets, so he’s got to know theirs. And it will make a more exciting climax if he does.”
Head over to “The Movement” podcast website to listen to Tarantino’s latest interview in its entirety.