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Christoph Waltz has a winning way with thank-yous

Chris Lee
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

If you are among the vast constituency that believes what almost every guru of gold has been proclaiming since last summer, then you know: "Inglourious Basterds'" Christoph Waltz has the supporting actor statuette all but locked up.

With almost mind-numbing constancy, the Austrian actor has been heralded as a front-runner after bursting into consciousness as sadistic Nazi Col. Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's history-rewriting spaghetti Western cum World War II drama.

Presuming Waltz's win is a foregone conclusion, his Oscar appearance leaves only one X-factor: What will the notoriously magniloquent actor say in his speech?

Waltz, who speaks fluent English and French in addition to his native German, has been on an awards tear since May, winning trophies at the Cannes Film Festival and various film critics association accolades, among others. He has elevated the quotidian task of giving an acceptance speech into a kind of baroque performance art, delivered with the same Teutonic eye-twinkle that makes his Landa such a charming sociopath.

In Waltz's most memorable appearances, he can be relied on to take some operating principle of the award he's being given and then craft an oratory around a central metaphor — and extending it beyond all expectation, wringing every last bit of poetry from it and leaving no cliche unspoken.

To wit: For his Golden Globes win, Waltz seized upon a motif of celestial interconnectivity and outer space imagery that would have made Darth Vader blush.

"A year and a half ago, I was exposed to the gravitational forces of Quentin Tarantino," Waltz said at the Golden Globes in January. "He took my modest little world — my globe — and with the power of his talent and his words and his vision, he flung it into his orbit — a dizzying experience."

Waltz capped off the speech by calling "Basterds" a "big bang of a movie," adding: "I wouldn't have dared to dream that my little world, my globe, would be part of that constellation. And now you've made it golden."

Collecting his Screen Actors Guild Award, meanwhile, Waltz leaned heavily on certain presumed distinctions between movie stars and stage thespians — all while giving a shout-out to an unsung hero of the projected entertainment medium.

"A stage actor acts on a stage," Waltz said. "But a screen actor doesn't act on the screen. The stage actor just walks on by himself, but the screen actor is put on there by a projectionist.

"We work towards what can only be hoped for in utmost secrecy. This is what I was granted by working with Quentin Tarantino. ... For this, I'm indebted and grateful to all of you."

Waltz paused before bringing the velvet hammer down on his chosen leitmotif. "To all of you, including the projectionist."

And at this year's Critics' Choice Awards, Waltz sadistically tortured the notion of choice-making in his acceptance speech.

"When Quentin invited me to join the cast, my choice assumed a completely different dimension," the actor said. "Did I want to be an actor or not? This Critics' Choice Award is an approval of all the choices prior to this."

At the recent British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards in London, the actor somewhat altered his MO, structuring his acceptance speech around his nomination category rather than any country-specific references.

"Supporting actor?" Waltz rhetorically asked. "Supported actor," he said and went on to heap praise on Tarantino.

The Academy Awards will no doubt present Waltz with a number of metaphorical possibilities. Rest assured his acceptance speech will likely be downright academic.

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