Christoph Waltz has faced some of the most exciting films in Hollywood. Garnering two Academy Awards for his striking roles in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, the 62-year-old specialises in playing charming, complicated eloquent bad guys. Also appearing in the likes of James Bond instalment Spectre as well as The Legend of Tarzan, it was his most recent role in Alita: Battle Angel that saw the acclaimed actor transform into the beloved hero.
A pioneering collaboration between James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel is the new-age film bringing the future of AI technology to everyday cinema. Fusing live-action film with meticulous and carefully integrated animation, Waltz plays Dyson Ido, a compassionate cybernetics doctor who discovers abandoned cyborg Alita (Rosa Salazar) on a scrapheap in the 26th Century, 500 years from now. In a loving father-daughter bond, trouble ensues as she uncovers the unforgiving Iron City, with Ido always close by.
In an exclusive interview, the award-winning Waltz discusses transforming into the good guy role, the working relationship of the two visionary filmmakers and how despite the focus on technology, the storyline is perpetuate to the spirit of humanity.
ICON: You are renowned for playing complicated bad guys. How did it feel to play someone with a good heart?
Christop Waltz: “It feels very good to be good. I don’t have anything to do with that. I play my part. I try to play it from the inside out not the outside in. My opinion is utterly irrelevant. So how does it feel to play a good guy? It doesn’t. If I judged my character, I would impede myself significantly. One of the difficulties to play any part whatsoever is not to play your opinion about it.”
ICON: Did you enjoy the physical aspects of the part?
CW: “The physical aspects of the part are always enjoyable. I didn’t have that much to do. A little fight here and there. Swinging a hammer occasionally.”
ICON: How did you find working with Rosa Salazar who plays Alita?
CW: “She’s an accomplished actress. She’s not a beginner. She is very experienced. She has mastered a lot of challenges. She knows the ups and downs. She is smart. She employs her intelligence very productively. You can work with her, you can argue with her, you can clarify with her. It’s like it should be.”
ICON: Did you go back to the original Japanese manga?
CW: “I did of course read it because I know nothing about manga. It’s just not my thing. I’m not a comic book person. Not because I think comics are stupid — they are not — but I have other interests and never took the time. It escaped my attention. It’s not difficult to catch up on it. You can get the books and read it. I even did from right to left.”
ICON: Did you use any other films, books or art to draw inspiration from?
CW: “I don’t do that. Just because you, in the whim of a moment, discover an analogy, it’s kind of like a scientific, academic approach. It’s not entirely futile but it’s not a productive process to look at what at others have done with other things. I really try to use the script and the script alone. If there is a direct analogy that offers itself it would be silly to disregard it, just like it would be silly not to read the manga if it exists. But I can see that an actor would not want to be side-tracked, I don’t want to be influenced.”
ICON: How did you see the working relationship between James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez?
CW: “It should be said to James’ credit how magnanimously and trustingly he handed the story over to Robert and that’s when the dynamic changed. Both of them knew what they were doing. It was really James’ baby. He had written the script. He wanted to direct it. They had done a lot of work on it. And then after some time of deliberation, he took the whole package and handed it over to Robert. He didn’t control it. He inspired it and then stepped back. It’s a little bit like the Ido/Alita dynamic.”
ICON: Do you see the Ido/Alita dynamic in relation to classic stories like Pinocchio?
CW: “Geppetto is carving a wooden boy and is doing it so well meaning he approaches a life-like perfection and then magically transforms Pinocchio it into a boy. Here Alita’s life exists and Ido just finds it. He knows where it is coming from so he knows how to transition into a physical incarnation. This is what I like so much about Alita. Technology enables, technology facilitates but technology is subservient to the story, meaning technology is subservient to the spirit.”
Bring Home the Battle on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital July 24. Order the film here.