How to be a real basterd

Germany's hottest Hollywood talent Til Schweiger talks Tarantino, Trump and not having a perfect American accent with Lee Coan

Featured March 17 Words by Lee Coan
How to be a real basterd

 “i'm in a car!” shouts a voice with great urgency. It's the kind of voice that sounds like its owner is about to detonate a bomb and sleep with your wife, possibly at the same time.

“I only have this window of opportunity to speak! We must do it now!” it shouts like a hurricane. Is it really possible to be that up against it? Erm.. yes, it seems. It is.

Germany's biggest acting sensation, Schweiger, 53, might be best known internationally for his role as Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), but he is also an acclaimed producer, writer and director, grossing up to $74 million per film with production company Barefoot Films, based in Berlin. “It's a great city to party and work in, but since I've done my fair share of partying, I've recently moved to Hamburg, which is a bit more reserved.”

On top of this, he's beamed into pretty much every living room in Germany via the country's most popular TV show, Nick's Law; a curious hybrid between CSI: Miami and EastEnders, says Schweiger. “There'll be a murder, four or five suspects, then millions of German's trying to work out who's guilty.” 

If this weren't enough reason to take his foot off the accelerator, last November saw Schweiger explode into the restaurant business, with the opening of Barefood Deli in downtown Hamburg, a huge, country-style loft house serving hearty dishes like Til's Bolognese, his own personal recipe. “From day one, we've been full. As well as the bar, restaurant and takeaway, we also do dance parties!” He's certainly got a lot of things cooking…


What's your first memory of going to the cinema?

“My dad took me to see this movie about wildlife when I was a kid. I don't even know what it was called, but it was like, damn, these zebras are coming right at me. That was a magic moment.”


Did you always want to make films?

“Hell, no, but I was a storyteller from childhood. I used to draw my own comics and sell them to my parents for one deutschmark.” 


So, a hustler from an early age?

“Yeah. I spent all the cash I made on going to the cinema, but I wanted to be a teacher until I met a girl who worked in a theatre, and pushed me into acting. I only did it to impress her.”  


Slightly less scope for blowing stuff up than as an action star...

“I know. When I told my kids that I could have been a teacher, they were sad, because I might have had more time for them if I hadn't been in the movies.”


What was it like working with Tarantino on Inglourious Basterds?

“How do I say this? [Laughs.] Let's just say that I learn something from every film-maker I work with, even if it's how not to do things. He's a genius as a writer, but would shoot the same take over and over again, without changing a single thing. No new direction at all, just again and again. Fifteen times! That can be pretty boring.”


What's Hollywood like for non-Californians?

“The offers I get are mostly typical bad guys. For some reason, the European always has to be the baddy if he can't speak in some perfect American accent. I love watching action films, but as an actor, there's not a lot of action involved in making them.
It's often a lot of sitting around, waiting for the special effects.”


Where have you most enjoyed filming?

“I loved being in Istanbul

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