One of the most pleasant surprises in 2011’s Horrible Bosses was watching familiar faces like Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell as horrible bosses. Even though they were playing “horrible” characters, they made it look like so much fun. For the sequel Horrible Bosses 2, new director/writer Sean Anders and Co. take that concept and run with it, in having cast Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz as the new “horrible bosses” making life miserable for our heroes – three unsuccessful boss-killers played by Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis.
Screen Rant recently sat down with the Oscar winner newly-minted Bond 24 villain to find out how much fun there is to be had in playing someone horrible, why we won’t ever see him doing improv comedy, and how the next Waltz/Tarantino collaboration could/should have an operatic quality.
Screen Rant: Was there one scene that stood out when you first read the script, that made you sign on?
Christoph Waltz: Not immediately. It needed some helping along by the people involved. They’re such smart, highly-skilled professionals, to overlook their opinion would really be silly and so coming back to the script which I first couldn’t make a lot of sense of.
SR: I wondered about that! Especially in watching it and seeing the scenarios play out, I would think it would be hard to tell how certain beats and scenes would play out.
CW: You’re absolutely right, that’s exactly it. Even more so, I’ve overlooked in my bedazzlement, if that’s the right word, I overlooked a few crucial details and then having been set straight on it, I saw that there is a lot of political stuff in there and I’m interested in that kind of thing and I’m interested in that kind of thing in that kind of context. Comedy is the best way to transport these elements.
SR: What kind of difference do you find with barriers that can be crossed or broken in comedy vs. drama?
CW: I’m sure there are plenty of them and we could talk about them for a long time as various academics have for the past 200 years but really, my job is to do something in it and so the question I have to ask myself is, “What can I do in this given context?” and that was pretty clear. A silly comedy like that needs a straight guy, and that guy needs to be as straight as possible. The moment you start playing straight you’re not straight anymore, you’re bent straight, so it really requires the usual – and by usual I mean in general – serious, straight-forward analysis and research, looking into it and finding the dramatic function, all of what you do until you feel you’ve collected enough points to safely and securely play the part.
SR: Was there a particular way in for you? I feel like Bert is someone everyone encounters in life
CW: No no. I guess there are no real strict rules, but I just learn to apply my philosophy about comedy which is, it’s a serious business and the result needs to be funny, not the process.
SR: Could you sense something with this one, that there was something special about the comedy and the cast?
CW: Yes, well not as a success. That you can never tell, whether the audience will like it, they do test screenings blah blah, blah which I don’t have anything to do with, but you can see when it works and that’s the director’s job to guide you through that. That’s exactly what I mean, to come back to the beginning, it was Sean [Anders] who convinced me that this was going to be exactly how I wanted to do it, that’s why he cast me.
SR: Was there a specific day or moment that defined that for you?
CW: It’s an accumulation. What I liked so much while shooting, I might not like anymore when I see it or vice versa. The two are connected but not on a causal level.
SR: What kind of guy is Bert? Would you want him in your life at all?
CW: I think people like that are unavoidable. Do you like them? Not necessarily. Would we like Putin as one of the world leaders? No. Do we have to put up with him? For the moment, we do.
SR: Was there a little bit of Putin in Bert?
CW: Possibly. It wasn’t intentionally. When we talk about business people and ruthless business methods, possibly.
SR: How did Sean sell the arc of the character? Did you know how things would end right away?
CW: That’s part of the work, that’s part of my job and his job. It was really planned and executed like a thriller, like any other thriller. The fact that they are these three comedians tripping over themselves and each other, is almost separate from that . They way it was done, like a thriller which it is, in a way.
SR: It is, I was surprised about that since the first one is mostly zany comedy
CW: That’s why it’s great, that’s why it’s wonderful. Sean, even though he’s known as a comedy guy, he could easily and he probably will direct non-comedy, suspense, drama.
SR: In watching the three guys, do you think about dipping your toe into that form of comedy ever?
CW: No, watching the three guys, not that I haven’t known it before but made it once more very clear to me that I can’t improvise, it’s just not my thing.
SR: Really? Some of your performances are so good they seem effortless in a way…
CW: No no, effortless and improvisation are two different things. Just because it’s improvised doesn’t mean it’s effortless and just because it’s effortless doesn’t necessarily mean it’s improvised.
SR: Obviously people know you now for your acting work, but I’m very curious about the opera you directed (Strass’ Der Rosenkavalier) last year. Is that something you would explore for America? Or again?
CW: No, that’s done. That’s the beauty of the stage. I don’t like filmed theater or opera because you’re kind of playing soccer in a hockey game, you know? Either or, they don’t do justice to the media and you end up with a hybrid that is purely sensationalistic. Opera is a very theatrical medium that should be seen on a stage with the musicians in the pit in the audience.
SR: A good enough experience for you to direct another one?
CW: Yeah yeah, definitely. It was fantastic, I loved it.
SR: Too few things with live orchestras these days.
CW: It’s the economics, that’s why opera, it’s not dying but gets more and more difficult to put on. Rosenkavalier, what I did, Strauss in specific, Salome has an even smaller cast than Rosenkavalier yet there are 110 musicians in the pit. You say, “Well there are only five people involved” That’s onstage during the performance. And then in the pit you have 100 or more. The music is immensely complex and complicated so it needs a lot of rehearsal, a lot of work.
Also when you do a theater or opera production, you do it for a very specific theater because that plays into it. The LA Opera house is at least 2,000 people, at least. Yeah we had this problem, we were supposed to go to Covent Garden and then they canceled because they said, “We don’t see it. We can’t blow it up to that degree.”
SR: Is there someone you could partner with? I know Mr. Tarantino does many things with an operatic quality, would it help to have someone like him to bring more attention to it?
CW: Yeah yeah, possibly. It would be interesting to see him direct opera. It’s an entirely different process than directing a movie. For that alone it would be interesting, but he is such a talented man it would probably come up with an immense and immensely interesting and fascinating staging. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s in the forefront of his interests. On the other hand, he’s a consummate filmmaker and he’d have to spend a year with an opera.
SR: Well I’m glad you two found each other.
CW: So am I, very much so. Maybe even gladder than you are. [Laughs]
Horrible Bosses 2 is now playing in theaters.