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Meet The Inglourious Basterds

This week on totalfilm.com, we've exclusively showcased the stars of Quentin Tarantino's new WW2 revenge flick, Inglourious Basterds .

Here's 7 key characters, with words from the actors and a typically un-shy view from the director (and producer).

 

Col. Hans Landa

Played By: Christoph Waltz

Nationality of actor:
Austrian

Nationality of character: German

Waltz on Landa : “You do not play a villain by snarling. That’s not a villain, that’s an idiot. You go by the details, you go with what’s in the story, you try to discover the narrative, and you hook into that and you want the precise, minute details.

"You must fractalise the details into more details, you want the specifics, you need ideas that you can act on. The generalisation is satisfied by putting on the uniform, the boots and that, everyone can see he's Nazi. I don’t need to worry about that.

“The funny thing is, everybody expects a German actor to be offended or feel strange about it because its about Nazis, but I didn’t hear one voice of a colleague who mentioned, so we are cool with it.

“I’m indebted to Brad Pitt. Not for one split second did he evoke the impression of a virtual person. He was there. I’m indebted to him because he never played the star - he was never a virtual person. He allowed me to be his partner and he’s accommodating, funny and polite.

“Tarantino does what’s necessary. He doesn’t stop until he has exactly what he wants.

"If he has it after 3 takes we do it in 3 takes, if it takes 18 takes then we do 18 takes, if we get the scene in a day we get it in a day.

There was one scene that was scheduled for a day and we got it in 3 days. He doesn’t stop until he has what he needs. If you feel that you can improve on it then he says, 'You want another one? Sure! I’m happy!' I trust him, he wrote the thing, he created it. He is such an astute and sharp and precise observer."

Producer Lawrence Bender: “During casting, Quentin calls me and says, 'I’m really worried, I might have written a part that just can’t be played by an actor'. This is the Colonel Landa role. He says, 'It's because not only do we need a great actor, we need a linguistic genius. He’s got to speak French, German and English, not just fluently but he’s got to do it in my language, he’s got to be a poet in all three languages, and be a great actor. That just might not be possible.



“He said, 'Look, I haven’t spent any studio money yet, I’ve only been spending my own money. If I can’t find this guy, I can’t just hire anybody. This is the key role to the movie.

“So I said to him, 'Look, I completely understand this is the plan, we’ll stop seeing any other actors except actors for this role. We'll the next week just looking for Col. Landa. He said, yes. If we find him, we have a movie. If we don’t find him then we’ve tried our best.

"A couple of hours later that morning, Sunday morning, in walks Christoph Waltz, and he reads a scene and he does it in English, he does it in French, he does it in German, and Quentin and I look at each other like, 'Holy shit!'

“So Christoph was like, 'Thank you so much, Mr. Tarantino. It was a pleasure...' And we’re like, 'Thank you'. He walked out and we literally high-fived because Christoph Waltz came in and saved the movie - literally.   

“We gave ourselves a week just to be 100% sure. We saw all the other actors, and at the end of the week Quentin called up Christoph Waltz and said, 'You’re my Col.Landa, Thank you for saving my movie.'"

 

Next: Fredrick Zoller [page-break]

 

Fredrick Zoller

 

Played By: Daniel Bruhl

Nationality of actor: German

Nationality of character: German

Bruhl on Zoller : “I like the ambivalence of the character.  Quentin wanted a very cute and likeable guy, the first German who is likeable in the movie, and it makes it difficult for the girl (Shossana – played by Melanie Laurent) to defend herself against his charm offensive - even though she hates the Germans after what happened to her.

“I also in a propaganda film within the main film. I always wanted to shoot in black and white, and I'm very happy that this is my first time in a proper propaganda movie. My parents will be shocked when they see the movie, but it was great fun, it was an easy start for me because Eli Roth shot it.

“I was so nervous before the first shooting day, so it was good to start with that and then come to the main unit to work with Quentin. Of course it's fun, you're standing there on the bell tower, stuntmen falling down the roofs, piles of dead Americans... It was funny."

 

QT says: “What's really interesting about the film is the fact it's bringing down the Third Reich. 

“I love that the film deals with the Nazi propaganda film industry. I love that we actually see Goebbels not as the evil puppetmaster that you see all the time, but as the propaganda studio head, basically having a Hollywood lunch.”

 

Next: Shossana Dreyfus [page-break]


Shosanna Dreyfus

 

Played By: Melanie Laurent

Nationality of actor: French

Nationality of character:
French

Laurent on Dreyfus:
“I can imagine every actress in the world at the moment wants to play a beautiful, glamorous woman who's very cold, very strong and just wants to kill everybody. I think actresses want that at the moment.

“First reaction to the script was just, 'Wow!'. I was in preparation for doing a porn movie, as a director. So I was in a little shop choosing a bra and he just called me at that moment. I was like, 'Hello! Oh my god!'.

"So I left and was in the middle of the street and Quentin said, 'Do you want to be my Shosanna?' I was just screaming and crying, it was crazy!”

QT says : "One of the things that was really sweet with Melanie was we’d spent a few different days doing this montage, so I’m always playing the music for the montage, and she’s doing things even though I didn’t 100% know the cue marks.

“I was always kind of playing it and we would get the rhythm as the piece went on, and so finally when we finished the sequence and we knew we were walking away from the set with the big window for the last time, when we finally finished it, we played the music and me and Melanie just rocked out. 

“It was like the end of the day and we just danced out to the song and just got it all out of our system after living with it for so long. 

“Then, when we were on the red carpet at the Cannes premiere, we had a lot of people on that red carpet waiting for everyone to show up and everything, and the whole bank of photographers was there and the red carpet was there, and I go, ‘Let’s go dance!’. So we just started rocking out, acting the fool, relieving all the tension."

 

Next: Sgt. Donny Donowitz [page-break]


Sgt. Donny Donowitz

Played by: Eli Roth

Nationality of actor: Jewish-American

Nationality of character:
Jewish-American

Roth on Donowitz : “Going to Germany I never quite fully understood how the current generation of Germans had the exact same fantasies of killing Nazis the way that I did, because I assumed, well, it's their grandparents so why would they?

"I never really understood the way that they were burdened the same way we were, and I think the movie is so much about confronting that, confronting the past, just destroying it and moving forward in a positive direction. 

“It was an incredibly healthy experience. In the scenes when I would kill the Nazis, the actor, whoever was dying, would look at me and go, yeah we get to kill these motherfuckers today, with the biggest smile on their face. 

“And they wanted the death to be as violent as possible. It wasn’t like my character's killing yours, it was that we were burying the past together because it was something that had indirectly affected our lives.”



QT says : “I wanted to avoid the war movie clichés that I’ve never liked, the little things like they hit a Nazi on the head and then they take his uniform and put it on and infiltrate somewhere, and it just magically fits. 

“Or the way when you see one of these guys come up behind some Nazi guard and they grab them and they knock them out and nobody dies or screams.

“It would never be that easy. Donny knows that. So he cuts their throats so they can’t scream.”

 

Next: Hugo Stiglitz [page-break]

 

Hugo Stiglitz

Played by: Til Schweiger

Nationality of actor: German

Nationality of character: German

Schweiger on Stiglitz: “He's very bloodthirsty - the only German-born member of the Nazi-killers.

"I couldn't wait to work with Quentin. The first production company that I funded was called Mr. Brown Entertainment and it was certainly inspired by Reservoir Dogs , and our first movie Knocking On Heaven’s Door was very much inspired by Quentin’s work.

"When I saw Pulp Fiction that changed my life. I thought this is the best picture I have ever seen in my life. Even though it was made fifteen years ago, it’s still a masterpiece, it’s one of the best movies ever made. 

"I was honoured when Quentin himself asked me if he could show Knocking On Heaven’s Door to the crew.”

QT says:
“I love Til's films. He’s a superb director and a terrific actor. Til reinvented himself at 30 with Knocking On Heaven's Door , he really wrote his own ticket. 

“His film Keinohrhasen - in Germany, it’s bigger than Harry Potter and Pirates Of The Caribbean. It's this massive, unprecedented hit. 

"The public love him and the fans love him and I thought that would be a great career to have - writing, directing, producing and acting.”

 

Next: Bridget Von Hammersmark [page-break]  

Bridget Von Hammersmark

Played by: Diane Kruger

Nationality of actor: German       

Nationality of character: German

Kruger on Hammersmark: “ She is a double agent, yet she's not James Bond. You see her vulnerable, and she's very quick on her feet. She's also fiercely intelligent but she's not just some killing machine. She’s not this cold, calculating person.”

QT says: “ Bridget is based on the Hungarian actress Ilona Massey, who I always really liked, but who never really made it in Hollywood.

She appeared in bit parts in Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes movies. That’s the kind of career Bridget would have had if she’d gone to America .”

 

Next: Lt. Archie Hicox...

[page-break]

 

Lt. Archie Hicox

Played by: Michael Fassbender

Nationality of actor: German/Northern Irish

Nationality of character: British

Fassbender on Hicox: The description in the script was that this guy was like a young George Sanders and I’m awfully familiar with him.

"Sanders was the original Saint and I just got my hands on as many of those Saint series as possible and as many films of his that I could, and I based him on a 1940s/1930s movie star.

"Those people spoke in a very particular way, it’s not even like a kind of aristocratic accent. It’s clipped and the rhythms of it and the colours of it are a very specific thing.

"Also, the way that they moved physically back then, the way they held cigarettes, the way that they held a whiskey glass, everything was like a sort of foreplay.

"So I just really studied Sanders, and tried to take what I thought was interesting from his character and brought it to Hicox.”

 

QT says: I showed him a whole bunch of George Sanders movies he had never seen before and I said, 'This guy's awesome, and so Michael studied the way he talked and the rhythm, and it flowed perfectly with my dialogue.

"I also showed him a bunch of movies by Georg Wilhelm Papst, both silent films and sound films.

"It wasn’t super-important as far as the movie itself was concerned but it’s important for him as an actor - when he says the name Papst, that it’s not just a name to him. Images come to his mind, he knows what he’s talking about.”

 

For 10 reasons why Inglourious Basterds is Quentin's bravest, brashest film yet, check out the latest issue of Total Film Magazine, on-sale Thursday 30 July. For a sneak preview, click here .

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