On Tuesday, Donald Trump was elected to be the next president of the United States of America. On Thursday, actor Christoph Waltz was interviewed on the subject for Austrian TV. I like the interview, so for the benefit of my English-speaking friends, I have translated it*. Enjoy.
Gadenstätter: It seems America is still divided. There have been protests against Donald Trump today, including in Austin, the capital of Texas, which is actually deeply republican. One of the most well-known Austrian expats, double Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, has spent the last few days working on a movie in Texas. He is just back, and joins us from our Los Angeles studio. Good evening, Mr Waltz.
Waltz: Good evening, Ms Gadenstätter.
G: Mr Waltz, how did you and your colleagues experience the last few days and the election of Donald Trump on set?
W: On set, it was actually a night shoot, so while the catastrophe was unfolding, many were standing around with their mobile phones, and it got more and more quiet, it got more and more gloomy. And the …, like me, at the end we were in a state of shock. Because despite all the discussion and division, and the long campaign did prepare us for this insanity, but nobody thought that it would actually come to this disaster.
G: You live in Los Angeles, which has been and continues to be Democrat, but it borders on Mexico, where Trump plans to build a wall. You live in Los Angeles. Do you personally experience this division in the city?
W: No. Fortunately not. But in California, support for Trump is more in the North-East. At the border to Mexico, it’s solidly Democrat. The wall for me … I don’t know, it remains to be seen. But I can only say that for me personally, the presence of the many Latinos in Los Angeles is fortunate, because they have a completely different way of life, and a much more direct relationship with life, and with humanity.
G: Much has been said about social networks and the media in the US. There was massive campaigning there, and every one of Trump’s utterances was re-hashed. What is the significance of this? As an actor, you know how important PR is. Did social networks, the media, make Trump even bigger than he already was?
W: Absolutely. Absolutely, because the so-called social networks have, there are now a number of studies about this, they also have a high anti-democratic and undemocratic energy. And I doubt that this piss-stupid insanity would have been able to spread that quickly without the so-called social networks. Because it would always have gone through a bit of a critical filter. As much as one can deplore the degeneration of journalism in the digital age. If there is a critical mind in the background that does not even edit, but just filters, it already looks different. If it needs to be printed or finished for television. On the internet, everyone can spread everything immediately, no matter what it’s based on. And obviously, that makes it much easier to spread negative content, because it’s always like that.
G: Does this result in a responsibility for the culture industry or for stars who have hundreds of thousands or even more than a million followers? To call for moderation in social networks and prevent further division?
W: Of course I see a responsibility. But I always see a responsibility. I don’t see more of a responsibility than usual, just because of Trump. I argue that if we had been conscious of this responsibility earlier, then maybe we could have … maybe not changed anything, but maybe at least raise awareness. Because honestly, I see it as a deficit in awareness to fall for this kind of demagoguery.
G: In his first speech, Trump has appeared conciliatory. It was a bit of a change that he went through there on stage. Do we not have to presume his innocence, give him a bit of time and say we have to wait and see, and we judge him by what he actually does?
W: You mean we declare everything he has said so far as unsaid and say forget it, it does not matter? He did not call for torture, he did not say that if one has atomic weapons, one might as well use them, he did not say Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers? I mean, the list goes on forever. We just pretend this has never been mentioned and say maybe he’s actually a fun guy? Why? What has been said cannot be unsaid. And Obama himself said in his meeting with Trump that we have to work on making Trump feel welcome and that if he succeeds, the country succeeds. Really? If Trump succeeds with what he announced during his campaign, then we have reached the end.
G: The first people to congratulate Trump were right-wing populists and despots. They were jubilant and they now expect a boost from Trump’s victory in America. You are what one could call a wanderer between cultures: you live in America, but you also live in London and in Berlin. You know Brexit, you know both those systems. As someone who really knows both sides well, do you think there is going to be this boost for right-wing populists in Europe?
W: Yes, those right-wing populists are sure to try and benefit from this media hype. That pathetic Brexit person Farage has already presented himself here and has tried to somehow heat up opinions by saying it would be a “Brexit plus plus”. Unfortunately, he was effectively right, there is no arguing with that. But the political systems are so different that it’s impossible to compare one and the other. And Mr Farage would have to explain to me again what organisation it is that the USA want to leave for their own benefit. I know that Trump has announced he would cancel or even just ignore trade agreements, to destabilise NATO if the partners don’t pay – which effectively means that he wants to turn the United States Army into an army of mercenaries. All those things … It is only tempting to make a comparison if one is after a headline.
G: One more question to Hollywood: Hollywood is an opinion maker. Does the film industry need to have a stronger and more courageous way of dealing with the topic of right-wing populism?
W: Yes. Absolutely. We all need a stronger and more sensible approach to this topic. We all need to start to carefully think about how we want to shape our community and what we can bring to the table. Hollywood is an opinion maker, but Hollywood is also a multi-billion-dollar business. Hollywood has not been led by responsible opinion makers and critical thinkers for a long time. Instead, it is led by multinational corporations whose accountants and business managers dictate more or less where it’s heading. Now, that sounds worse than it is … Or maybe it is worse than it sounds, I don’t know. In any case, a lot will happen within the so-called independent scene in reaction to this.
G: We recorded the interview with Christoph Waltz this evening.
* ) Thank you to Fabian for helping me proof-read it and for helpful discussions on how best to translate such technical terms as “brunzdummer Irrsinn”.