Hans Landa will give his orders from the director’s chair
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EXCLUSIVE: Apparently, it’s not that big of a leap from Nazi to movie director.
Following his supporting actor Oscar win as the coolly ruthless Col. Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds,” Christoph Waltz will soon make his feature filmmaking debut, stepping behind the cameras in Fox International Productions’ German-language “Up and Away.”
Waltz, who co-wrote the film’s script and may play a supporting role in the romantic comedy, previously has directed for German television. The 53-year-old actor, who was born in Austria and lives in London and Berlin, says he had considered making “Up and Away” years ago. “But I never had time to do something else” besides acting, Waltz says.
Before he makes the Fox movie, loosely adapted from Meike Winnemuth and Peter Praschl’s novel “Auf und Davon,” Waltz will appear in December’s “The Green Hornet.” He is set to star in “Water for Elephants,” which goes into production this summer, and said he is choosing among three different acting roles that could follow “Water for Elephants,” which means he may not direct the German film until 2011.
“Up and Away” is set in and around a dating game show. Through a series of events, the woman who runs and hosts the show must confront her callous feelings about romance, which place a greater emphasis on its marketability than emotion. “When you make feelings a commodity, it’s not a feeling anymore,” Waltz says.
Under President Sanford Panitch, Fox International has made several hit movies in its local territories. Unlike the traditional Hollywood model of exporting American films overseas, Fox International (like a number of similar divisions at other studios) produces movies in specific countries that don’t necessarily play in theaters in other parts of the world.
The company’s Indian movie “My Name Is Khan” has grossed $38 million worldwide, making it one of the most popular Bollywood movies ever. In China, Fox’s “Hot Summer Days” debuted in first place at the box office and has grossed more than $17.5 million, or 120 million renminbi (one of fewer than a dozen Chinese movies to cross that local currency threshold), while Germany’s “Krabat” has taken in more than $12 million worldwide. “Maybe there’s an opportunity for ‘Up and Away’ to travel, but that’s not the business model,” Panitch says. “We are making the movie for the German audience — and it’s a big enough market to matter, the fifth biggest in the world.”
He says he met with Waltz soon after “Inglourious Basterds” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and they discussed “Up and Away.” “I was charmed by him right away,” Panitch says. “He has a lot to say and has an encyclopedic knowledge.”
Waltz says he hopes to be an easy director for his cast. “I want to be the kind of director that I as an actor would want to work with,” he says.
Even though there’s a part for him in the film, he’s still uncertain about directing himself, a feat managed by a host of actors turned filmmakers, including Clint Eastwood and George Clooney. “We haven’t decided yet,” he says. “I think it will be physically hard to be on both sides of the camera.”
-- John Horn