Guest Post: Peculiar Typecasting

Today's post is courtesy of my former boss from my days at Star Video/Valley Media, Richard Goffman.  He makes a very interesting observation about two jarringly similar scenes by the same actor, Christoph Waltz, in two very different movies, Inglourious Basterds and Water for Elephants.  I haven't seen the latter yet, but when I do I'll pay extra attention to what Rich mentions.  Those of you who have seen both, please chime in with your thoughts.  (Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen either film and want to be completely surprised, read no further.)

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I just saw Water for Elephants. Not my kind of thing, but my wife had read the book and it was her turn to pick the movie, so we went.



That's not the point. Here's what I found shocking. Ok, if not shocking, then mind-boggling. Christoph Waltz plays a character very similar to the one he played in Inglorious Basterds, the one for which he won an Oscar. He is a vicious sadist who enjoys posing convincingly as a sophisticated charmer..

I think most observers would agree that playing Hans Landa, the Jew Hunter, put him on the map. Now I didn't see The Green Hornet, which came out between Basterds and Elephants, so I don't know what his character was like in that one. But if you were Waltz's agent, wouldn't you try to get him something different? A leading man, an action hero, a comedy, a romance, something?

And that's not the worst part. (Spoiler alert: If you want to see Elephants and don't want the ending spoiled, stop here.) At the climax of the film, he leaps onto the chest of Reese Witherspoon and starts strangling her.. One immediately remembers the scene in Basterds when Landa does the exact same thing to Diane Kruger. So not only is he a charming sadist in both movies, he kills or attempts to kill a blonde woman in both movies by strangulation during the big finish. And worst of all, the filmmaker of Elephants aped the Tarantino shot: He shows Waltz on top of Witherspoon from behind, so we can see her feet as she struggles. The viewer can tell that she is beginning to expire when we see her feet start to stop kicking, and begin to fall limp... EXACTLY what Tarantino did in his film.


I doubt I'm the only person to have noticed this. I wonder what the explanation of the apparent replication is. Hard to believe that Elephants was paying homage to Basterds. I'd love to hear your take and that of your followers.

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As I said, very interesting observation.  I haven't seen The Green Hornet yet either (I am way behind in my movie viewing!), but I believe he plays the bad guy in that film too -- IMDB lists his character as Bloodnofski.  Many actors have made a career of playing villains, so I don't begrudge Waltz cashing in for a while by playing a certain type.  (He's also playing Cardinal Richelieu next in the latest adaptation of The Three Musketeers, another sinister antagonist, so he's definitely leaning toward the bad-ass villain roles.) 

After winning the Academy Award, you would think he would want to stretch as an actor, but if he doesn't want to leave his comfort zone yet, I have no problem with that.  After all, he plays evil so well! 

I'm intrigued by the seeming similarity of the two attack scenes, though. It should be noted that I also haven't read the book by Sara Gruen on which Water for Elephants was based.  How faithful that scene is that Rich mentions to the way it was written in the book is something I'm not qualified to address, but I'm curious to know. 

So until I check out the movie for myself, I leave it to you, my readers, to weigh in with your thoughts on the topic.  I'll try to chime in later when I actually see the film (and hopefully read the book someday.)

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