Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Doctor King Schultz in Django Unchained.
It certainly is questionable if Christoph Waltz really is supporting here. This is not a completely closed case that he is either though in that there is a clear lead of Jamie Foxx as Django, there are many scenes without Schultz, and he clearly ends up not being the main character by the end of the film. That being said though he still has considerable screen time, he is in most scenes for a great deal of the film, as well as he pretty much commands most scenes that he is in though that really has a lot to with the quality of Waltz's performance. I would say that really I would not complain all that much if he were placed in either category.
There is a criticism of Waltz here that could be made, although I have not heard it or read it so far, that he is playing too much of a similar character to that of Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds also directed by Quentin Tarantino. Both are intelligent and very suave Germans, but the key difference between the two is Hans Landa is quite evil and King Schultz is actually the hero of the film. Also Waltz playing a similar character does not diminish this performance in the least as who else could give this performance other than Waltz? The effort of Waltz in each role is equal and the simple truth is Waltz could have played this role first therefore such an argument never would be made.
Waltz is just brilliant from his first scene where he procures Django from two slavers first in attempted negotiation. Waltz's way with words is just fabulous and it perfectly accentuates the superiority of his character's intelligence in such an easy fashion. He also did this as Hans Landa, but where as Hans Landa he portrayed it as just one of his methods of attack on the psyche of his opponent, as Schultz he portrays with a lighter touch showing it to be merely the way Schultz is without any malice attached. Waltz shows that with Schultz his manner and style really is just the way he is, and that it doesn't have anything to do with any greater scheme like it would be with Landa.
Waltz is terrific in his creation of the style of Schultz though which is both very easy going in the way he speaks each and every word in a meticulous fashion, but at the same time Waltz brings across the quick incisive method that Schultz also does use when it comes to killing. In the first scene he brilliantly goes along in his way of speaking way above the slavers head, which Waltz does with style that is both entertaining but effective in creating Schultz as a character. When the slavers finally have had enough of him though he quickly dispatches them. Waltz is excellent because he barely shows Schultz as that violent, despite killing a man, because he still goes back to being so civil right after the fact.
In this performance Waltz absolutely makes the style of Schultz work completely without it seeming bizarre, nor stopping him from being a heroic character within the film. In every scene he is in Waltz makes it work through a great deal of charm he has, that this time does not have a hint of slime this time his smile tends to be genuine. Even when Schultz kills Waltz does this well by making it clear that Schultz has no hesitations really knowing that who is killing are bad men, therefore does not need to second guess himself, and his portrayal of his stance is properly honest so we do not second guess him either.
Unlike with Hans Landa who the audience were really kept at a distance from in any part of his plan fearing them more than anything, Waltz here is outstanding in the way he loses that coldness found in Landa instead creating a warmth within Schultz that allows us to be really in on his plans instead. Waltz makes it so when Schultz wins over on the slavers we can easily enjoy the victory right with through his welcoming performance here. Every one of his scenes where he talks himself out of a problem early on in the film is just terrific, and despite doing it several times Waltz makes each and everyone of these scenes very entertaining without feeling repetitive in the slightest.
Another reason I love this performance is how Waltz works with Jamie Foxx in the film. Jamie Foxx goes for basically a man with no name attempt in the vein of Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef, or maybe that is what Quentin Tarantino wanted from the character, either way though it does not quite work because Foxx is not Eastwood or Van Cleef. The weakness of the leading man does not matter though because Christoph Waltz is there to save the day. Whenever Foxx could allow the film to falter due to his not nearly compelling enough performance, Waltz steps in and instantly energizes the scene with his wonderful presence. Not a single scene while Waltz is around falters because Waltz simply through his extremely entertaining performance stops them from doing so.
Waltz's domination of the scenes between Django and Schultz might sound like it would not work as Django is suppose to be lead. It works though because Waltz creates the relationship between the two as a bit of a mentor apprentice sort of relationship. In their scenes together Waltz is very good in making Schultz a gentle teacher to Django as both a technical advisory in the ways of the Bounty hunter, but also an encouraging factor that works quite well that creates a certain friendship that works well. Foxx's performance style of basically of being a modern action hero in this period is saved, for the most part, because Waltz lightens up as well as energizes everyone one of their scenes together that really saves the film.
Later on in the film when they go to save Django's wife Schultz takes a little bit of a back seat to the craziness of Calvin Candie and his head slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) as the chief villains of the film. This is not Waltz's fault by any means but in certain scenes like one where Calvin orders a slave to be torn apart by dogs Schultz is regulated to the background. Still Waltz is very good and every chance he does have to to chime in he again infuses life into the picture, and he certainly makes sure that we do not forget him for a moment. Also very important through his short reactions Waltz very much shows a certain disgust brewing over the horrible behavior of the slave holder that is extremely well handled by Waltz that sets up Schultz's later actions.
Also when I say Waltz takes a back seat it is only brief, basically just on their way to Candieland. Waltz has a very good scene with Django's wife Broomhilda that is very amusing thanks to Waltz's expert delivery. Even better though is the scene where they all have dinner. DiCaprio, Jackson, and Waltz are just terrific here as they all play together. They are hilarious the way they trade the barbs with DiCaprio portraying Calvin's attempted sophistication, Jackson portraying Stephen purposeful lack of sophistication, and Waltz portraying honest sophistication. They work together just perfectly and make the scene work extremely well the way they just make entertaining but also the way Waltz sets up the ruse Schultz is playing all the while Stephen is detecting the ruse.
I will say this paragraph covers the severe SPOILERS of the film. After the ruse is detected and Schultz is forced to do things Calvin's way Waltz is terrific in subtle showing the slow moral anger that builds in Schultz. Waltz is outstanding in his last scene as Waltz finally shows Schultz let lose with his disgust against what he was repressing beforehand, and it is a powerful moment for the end of his performance. He though still ends his performance so brilliantly by showing his charm just one more time before he exits the film. I must say how good he is makes the last part of the film much harder to get through than it should have. I have never missed a character more in a film than year that Schultz and the credit needs to go to Schultz for doing so.
Christoph Waltz is amazing because he not only made his character exceedingly entertaining but as well even towed along Jamie Foxx to make his performance tolerable. He honestly is the man who makes the entire film work. Without him the film could easily could have devolved into just an abundance of violence lacking the charm and fun necessary for the film. I would say this is particularly true as I do feel that the ending of the film does devolve into that a bit, and Waltz is absent from the conclusion. All I can say is this is just a brilliant performance as Christoph Waltz pulls such a terrific character that does not feel for a moment like he is just coasting on his previous work. All I can really say that lead or supporting this just a great performance either way, and simply is either one of the best lead or supporting performances of the year.