By Gill Pringle

Did you grow up with Tarzan? “I didn’t grow up with him, but I knew the story, and the old movies. I didn’t go to the movies every day. We didn’t have a television at home, so seeing something was extraordinary for me. This made the impression much stronger.”

Was it the Johnny Weissmuller version of Tarzan? “Yeah. It’s very difficult to shake that first image that you form. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has a very clear and strong impression of what Tarzan is, and then beyond that initial impression, it becomes a different story, and it becomes much more interesting.”

Many of your scenes are with Margot Robbie? She always seems like so much fun. How was that experience for you? “Yeah, you know, um, fun. What do you mean by fun?”

She just seems like a radiant, happy person. “Yeah, absolutely. There’s much more to Margot than fun though. She is lovely, she is fun, and she is always wonderful to be with, but there’s infinitely more to her than that. She’s a mature actress, so you can work on a level that goes beyond the fun of the moment. You can really get into the details and develop a scene with her…I’m sure that she would be a fantastic tango partner.”

Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz in The Legend Of Tarzan
Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz in The Legend Of Tarzan

This project has been around for a while. Were you attached from the beginning? How did you get involved? “[Producer] Jerry Weintraub [who passed away in July 2015] approached me. We started talking, and he was such an incredible, larger than life personality. I never jump at anything. I want to know the intentions, and I want to develop my own intentions. I like to take it one step at a time, and he was the most patient and wonderful friend in the end. It’s a true tragedy that he can’t see it, because he was working to get this together for so long and so hard. He really tried to develop a vision. It was a real labour of love. He didn’t need to make money with this movie. It was really his thing, and he was so behind it. He was always checking whether everything was alright and whether everybody was happy. The last time that I met with him was about a year ago, long after we’d finished. There were open ends and he promised me that they would be fixed, and I really believed him. And you know what? He kept his word in every little detail. In every minor detail, he knew it all. He remembered it all, and he kept his word. He was a real man of honour. His handshake was a contract; it wasn’t about lawyers. He said, ‘We’re friends.’ Handshake. That’s it. Every promise kept. I think he was the last one. I’m really sorry that he’s gone.”

What was working with [director] David Yates like? “David is an accomplished filmmaker, and he has the movie in his head. You can rely on him 100%. There was never a loud word; he’s the sweetest man. He’s extremely polite, and he’s always worried about your well-being.”

Did you see the Harry Potter series? “No. I’ve seen the first Harry Potter movie but I didn’t see the whole series…”

Christoph Waltz in The Legend Of Tarzan
Christoph Waltz in The Legend Of Tarzan

Do you wonder about how different your life would be if you were not an actor? “Sure, yes. I would have been something else. What exactly, I don’t know. I can imagine a lot of things. I have a friend who’s a pediatric surgeon, and she makes, from scratch, ears for children who are born without ears. She puts these ears on, and these ears are actually growing with the kids…she’s making a real ear. When she tells me about these operations, I think, that’s something that’s really worthwhile doing with your life. Medicine is fantastic. What molecular biologists do is incredible. I don’t know whether I’d be so good with, you know, black holes colliding and making a chirping sound. I don’t know. My imagination is more of this world, because that requires a different mind. Maybe I’d be a wood worker. I don’t know.”

What was the most difficult part in getting prepared for The Legend Of Tarzan? “Well, one usually runs into a problem at some stage. Sometimes you revert to clichés and stuff you’ve done before, and then you realise that, and you have to find a way to overcome that. That’s usually the most difficult part: when the stuff that you know so well seems to creep in. Does that make sense?”

Yes. When did you reach that point with this project? “I can’t remember. I don’t keep a log. ‘Ran into a difficult moment today at 11:25. Encountered my limitation. So sorry.’”

Did you do any physical preparation for the role? “No. I didn’t really have to swing from vine to vine, so no. What I had was sufficient. Good enough is good enough, by the way. I didn’t need any muscle. I don’t know whether I would have had the stamina to go through what Alexander Skarsgard went through. He was working so hard! I’m fairly disciplined, but nothing like that. He was unbelievable. His dedication and focus over a long period of time was extraordinary. He started long before we started shooting.”

As an actor, is there any kind of role that you want to take on? “Do you have something in mind?”

Maybe like a classical role that you are interested in or something? “I am sure there is, but if I could write it down and define it that closely, I’d be a writer.”

The Legend Of Tarzan is in cinemas now.


Leave a Reply