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Inglourious Basterds: Tarantino's Christoph Waltz Trick Made The Movie Great

Inglourious Basterds is one of Quentin Tarantino’s most popular movies, and a big part of that success is thanks to Christoph Waltz’s performance as Hans Landa, the movie’s antagonist – and one peculiar trick from Tarantino helped make his performance and the movie in general a lot greater. Quentin Tarantino is now one of the most respected (and controversial, as well) filmmakers in the industry, and it all began in 1992 with the crime movie Reservoir Dogs. Since then, he has explored different genres with his trademark narrative style and generous doses of violence, and in 2009, he surprised the audience with the war movie Inglourious Basterds.

For Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino took real-life events and gave them a twist, telling his own version of historical events, in this case, World War II. Inglourious Basterds follows two subplots with its protagonists having one common goal: killing as many Nazis as possible, including Hitler. One of these plans was by a group known as the “Basterds”, led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), and the other by Shosanna Dreyfus/Emmanuelle Mimieux (Mélanie Laurent), a Jewish cinema owner whose family was killed by SS officer Hans Landa, who serves as the main villain of the story. Hans Landa gave Waltz his first Academy Award and is often listed as one of the greatest (and scariest) villains in film history, and a big part of that success is thanks to a trick Tarantino used before filming.

Related: Inglourious Basterds True Story: Did ANY Of Quentin Tarantino's Movie Really Happen?

Hans Landa is an Austrian SS officer nicknamed “the Jew Hunter” due to his “ability” to locate Jews hiding throughout Occupied France. Inglourious Basterds goes straight to introducing viewers to Landa, his personality, and his manipulative and violent ways, as he killed Shosanna’s family while they were hiding. Throughout Inglourious Basterds, viewers never know how Landa will react, as he’s very calculating and unpredictable, and there are a couple of moments throughout the movie that left viewers wondering what he was really thinking and planning, such as the dinner scene where it’s unclear if Landa recognized Shosanna or not. These defining characteristics in Landa were thanks to a trick Tarantino used during filming, which elevated the movie.

Speaking to The Moment podcast, Tarantino shared that he gave specific instructions to Waltz prior to starting filming Inglourious Basterds, and he didn’t want him to rehearse with the rest of the cast. Tarantino explained he was so impressed by Waltz that he asked him to “hold back” during the table read to mislead the cast and to not rehearse with the rest except for Denis Ménochet, who played French farmer Perrier LaPadite in the opening scene. This made way for an environment of anticipation between the cast and Waltz that translated to the final product, with the characters (and the audience) never knowing what’s going through Landa’s mind nor what his plans truly are about, as no one really knew how he was going to react.

Tarantino is known for having some strange methods from time to time when filming, but the instructions given to Christoph Waltz were not only harmless but for the better of Inglourious Basterds. It can’t be denied that Tarantino knew well what he had in Waltz’s talents and did what he could to make the best out of them, which not only made the movie great but also boosted Waltz’s career, who collaborated with him in Django Unchained, winning his second Academy Award.

Next: Inglourious Basterds Theory: The 3-Finger Gesture Didn't Give The Basterds Away

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