Christoph Waltz is not German. He’s something entirely different – he’s Austrian.
That’s at least the pained message the gifted actor repeatedly made in the US media before and after winning his second Academy Award on Sunday evening for playing a German bounty hunter in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Yes, his father was German and yes, he held only a German passport until a few years ago, but his soul was always thoroughly Austrian, he explained on talk shows and in newspaper interviews.
He even used the issue as a gag to open his recent appearance on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.
“I’ve wanted to host for a long time but they’ve always said to me: ‘Why you? You don’t have a sense of humour,” the Teutonic star joked. “‘You’re a serious German actor.’ Well first of all I’m not German, I’m Austrian and Austrians have a wonderful sense of humour, Germans, not so much.”
The German media has been doing its utmost to prove him wrong, with several major newspapers teasing this week that if Germany got the blame for the most notorious Austrian of all time – Adolf Hitler – then the country had a claim to Austria’s current favourite son Waltz.
There’s no denying the 56-year-old was born and raised in Vienna – but Austria only offered him citizenship after he won his first Oscar for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds in 2010. It would turn out to be wise PR move for the Alpine nation, which has basked in Hollywood’s admiration this week after Waltz repeated his Best Supporting Actor feat.
Married to a German costume designer, the father of four currently splits his time between Berlin and Los Angeles. Of course, that hasn’t diminished his ardour for Austria.
“I was born in Vienna, I grew up in Vienna, I went to school in Vienna, I graduated in Vienna, I studied in Vienna, I started my career in Vienna, I did theatre for the first time in Vienna, I did film for the first time in Vienna. There are also a few other Viennese details,” he said a few years ago. “But how much more Austrian can you get?”
His surging popularity in Hollywood means he now even has a US Green Card. But until he surrenders his German passport, Waltz remains the world’s best-known German actor.