'Big Eyes' star Christoph Waltz sees the good and bad in his characters - InfoNews

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'Big Eyes' star Christoph Waltz sees the good and bad in his characters

In this image released by The Weinstein Company, Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams appear in a scene from "Big Eyes." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - The Weinstein Company, Leah Gallo
December 24, 2014 - 5:00 AM

TORONTO - Whether he's playing a Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds," a bounty hunter in "Django Unchained" or an art fraud in "Big Eyes," Christoph Waltz says he doesn't judge his characters or try to discover a "hidden truth" about them.

"I understand that we all have everything," said the two-time Oscar winner. "In that respect we're all alike. We all have everything, we just — through conditioning and socialization and various other predispositions, education and cultural differences — then start to distribute these qualities in different proportions."

"There's no formula" to his acting approach, added Waltz, "but that's how I see the world, more or less."

"Big Eyes," which hits theatres on Thursday, tells the true story of the phenomenon and subsequent scandal surrounding Keane paintings in the late 1950s and early '60s. Charming and manipulative Walter Keane (Waltz) convinced wife Margaret (Amy Adams) to let him take the credit for her popular paintings of waifs with big eyes, leaving her to hole herself up in a studio in seclusion to create all the works while he enjoyed international fame from their booming business.

"I don't think Walter is in any way evil-spirited. Not one bit," said Waltz, an Austrian who won Oscars for his supporting roles in "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained."

"I think he's, if at all, someone who lost control over what he created. And there are very specific reasons for that, I'm sure, and one of them is, as always, education. I just think he didn't have the means and the know-how to run a big business as he did. But I would never refer to anybody as mean-spirited.

"There is always more ... behind just the moralistic verdict."

The "Big Eyes" script is from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote the biopics "Man on the Moon" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Co-stars include Danny Huston as newspaper columnist Dick Nolan, Madeleine Arthur as the older version of Margaret's daughter, and Jason Schwartzman as an art dealer who dismisses the Keane works.

The 58-year-old Waltz said he remembers seeing the images of the Keane paintings on calendars and postcards, but he didn't know the people behind them.

"They were not necessarily part of what we considered art, as such," he said in a phone interview. "They were just there and they were always referred to as 'American,' so it was never really considered art. It was some industrial product from America."

When he agreed to play Keane, he didn't read his autobiography as he didn't feel it would be helpful.

"His autobiography is a vendetta," he said. "It's a delusional rambling that goes against Margaret and the world and is justifying and aggrandizing himself."

Through the script, he came to assume that the gregarious and exuberant Keane became "desperate" as the fraud spiralled out of control and Margaret grew the courage to leave him.

"I tried to come up with understanding and empathy," said Waltz, "because in a way that helps me more as an actor than a negative opinion and a verdict and whatever it is."

Waltz recently got a Golden Globe Award nomination for playing Keane, and some are now wondering if he could be a contender for yet another Oscar. Such speculation is hard for Waltz, he admitted.

"When you're in the midst of it, it's kind of hard to avoid, but I make every effort to do so," he said. "It's something that pulls me out of my centre and that makes me very uncomfortable. So actually by now, I understand how to relax and just keep it away from me. When it happens, I'm happy, and when it doesn't happen I'm not sad."

— Follow @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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