Inglourious Basterds Producer Lawrence Bender: The Interview
He was ready to call off the entire production if he couldn't fill that role as written?
Yeah. He basically put it as, "Look, I can't compromise on this role. It's one of the most special roles I've ever written." He'd rather put this script out as a book than compromise on the character. Quentin was spending all of his own money on pre-production up until this point. So without skipping a beat, I said, "This is what we're going to do. We haven't closed our deals yet. Let's just focus in the next week on casting this character. If we find him we find him, if we don't, we've lost a little money, nothing ventured nothing gained." At about 11 a.m. that morning, in walks Christoph Waltz. He starts in French, and we're like, whoa. Then he goes into English, and we look at each other and at that point our jaws just kind of drop. Then he goes to German, and we're like, holy shit -- we found our guy. When he left, we literally high five each other and give each other a hug. If Christoph hadn't walked in, there would not be a movie. And it turns out, by the way, that he's such a wonderful human being. We became such great friends. I met his kids. We were all in Israel, in Tel Aviv together, and his son is in rabbinical school. His daughter is an Orthodox Jew. [Ed. note: Waltz's ex-wife, who he met while studying acting in New York, is an American-born Jew.]
There's something I didn't know. That's kind of wild to me.
That one of the great screen Nazis of all time has a rabbi for a son!
[Laughs] Yeah, but that doesn't mean he's a Nazi. I mean, I can see the irony, I guess. But he's one of the most wonderful human beings I've ever met.
Why do you think some people get along so well with Harvey Weinstein, like you and Quentin, and others it's like oil and water?
You know, all I can say is that I love him. I love Harvey. I've had so much success with him, and he's been so good to us. I don't know -- I think it's just about the passion, and that he wants to make a great movie. We're all very passionate people. This was the first time Quentin and I had made a movie with two major studio heads. Working with [Weinstein and Linde] together, I've never seen a movie go smoother. It's funny, because when it's one-on-one with someone, it's easier for someone to become more volatile.
So Linde's involvement helped grease things?
Look, Quentin has made every movie he's made with Harvey. There's no contract that requires that. It's just that Quentin loves Harvey, and loves what Harvey brings to the table. It's not that we needed someone to smooth things over, but there's no question that having David there added another element. Quentin has final cut, final say, but their suggestions always helped.
Did you ever think while making this film that you'd be one of the only bright spots in a pretty bleak year for Universal?
Well, you know, it's not that bleak. Last week they had a huge hit with Couples Retreat. The fact of the matter is that if they had made the decision to release that movie in the summer, people would not have been saying that. I feel like Linde and [Marc] Shmuger did a great job for the studio. I feel bad that they were dismissed. But yes, it's ironic that people were asking if this movie was going to save the Weinsteins, and it ends up being one of the big, bright spots for Universal. It doesn't always work, right? So you need to be really, really grateful when it does.
Did its huge opening, and then steady legs, surprise you? Or did you feel you had a hit on your hands?
You can't say that a Quentin movie, two-and-a-half hours long, two-thirds of it in another language is an obvious box office grand slam, right? On the other hand, I have to say, when I read the script, I said to Quentin that it was the best movie he'd ever written. It was a big movie, and we'd really have had to screw it up for it not to be a good movie and successful. So I thought it would do well, but never dreamed of a $38 million opening weekend, or that we'd have a really good shot at hitting $300 million worldwide.
Finally, there was a story in the gossip pages about you last summer, that you had some kind of feud with Michael Fassbender. Do you want to set the record straight on that once and for all?
I don't know what that was about. Then people started calling everybody and saying, what the fuck is everybody talking about? You can call Michael, his agent, his friends -- they'd all tell you that I was supportive of him from the beginning. He came into the room, he auditioned, I loved him, Quentin loved him. I really have no idea where any of that came from.
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