Christoph Waltz was a veteran TV and stage actor in Europe who was virtually unknown in Hollywood. Then he met Quentin Tarantino.
Waltz, 53, was honored as best supporting actor at Sunday's Academy Awards for his portrayal of a World War II Nazi with a gleeful taste for evil in filmmaker Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds."
"Oscar and Penelope. That's an uber-bingo," Waltz said as he accepted his trophy from presenter Penelope Cruz. He lauded Tarantino as a "fearless explorer" who directed the film masterfully, adding, "and that's why I'm here."
The Austrian actor's portrayal of German Col. Hans Landa called on him to give a despicable man an element of unlikely charm and to spew out Tarantino's rapid-fire dialogue in four languages. Waltz was considered a shoo-in for the Oscar after sweeping this season's other awards, including Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild trophies, and critics' group honors.
Backstage, Waltz was asked about his experience with the American awards season.
"It's mind-boggling. It's fantastic. It's very intense ... and tomorrow I'll probably be sorry it's over," he said.
"Inglourious Basterds" received other top Oscar nominations, including best picture, but Waltz was the only cast member to get a bid and won the only Oscar. The film's stars included Brad Pitt — whose Nazi-hunting character, in one graphic scene, carves a swastika into Landa's forehead.
In Vienna, a packed movie theater showing a live Oscars broadcast went wild when Waltz's name was announced.
"It's a great success for Austria," said 46-year-old Christian Foessleitner.
Waltz and his character provided ceremony co-host Steve Martin with material for an opening joke.
Noting that Waltz played a Nazi obsessed with finding Jews, Martin made a sweeping gesture to the auditorium filled with Hollywood insiders, then said, "The mother lode," as Waltz grinned.