His laughter is unmistakable.
Cult comedian Otto Waalkes (72) is an indispensable part of the German comedy landscape. For decades he has conjured up a smile on people’s faces in his roles. A gift that he would love to share with someone close to his heart. Because the comedian has been single for ten years – and that is becoming increasingly difficult for him.
▶ ︎In the BILD interview, the cult comedian talks about love and flirting, his return to the cinema in the film “Catweazle” (start: Thursday) and retirement.
BILD: When the “Catweazle” original ran, you were in your mid-twenties.
Otto Waalkes: “Yes – and I saw it back then, in the 70s. I thought it was funny, but I didn’t really think about it. At the time, of course, I didn’t expect to be able to slip into this role. That was quite a difference in age from Geoffrey Bayldon, who plays Catweazle in the original English. The series then slumbered in the upper room – until a few years ago the director Sven Unterwaldt showed me a photo in which Catweazle was lying in the bathtub. To this he said: ‘Look, that’s you!’ I couldn’t deny that. That’s why we started to make a new film out of it. “
Were you really enthusiastic about it or did you first have to be convinced?
Otto: “No, this bathtub scene convinced me. We took them over 1: 1, just like we used to with clothes in the deep end. But it was not that easy to make a German version appealing to the English authors. German comedy is still a rarity in England. The surprise was all the greater when they saw the film. Rumor has it that even the Queen showed interest. And as it is said from well-informed circles: Madam was very amused ‘. “
Did you have to update the series?
Otto: “Sure, we took that fifty years into the present day. For me the challenge was the same, I’m not an actor who slips into every role at will. I’m usually Otto. To be credible as a time traveler, I now had to become a magician. There shouldn’t be Otto, but Catweazle. That was exhausting. The magical gaze with which I wanted to make people submissive helped. The plan was good – you can now see the result in the cinema. “
How magical is your gaze in real life?
Otto: “You have to ask my friends about that.” (Laughs) “I like to flirt with looks, of course. First with looks, then with humor. It usually stays that way. “
You’ve been officially single for 10 years. How big is the longing for a new partner?
Otto: “Finding a partner on an equal footing shouldn’t be a problem for me – I’m not that tall. But there is a problem in my job: You are always on the move, never at home. If a partner has just gotten used to you – you’re gone again. And so you start from scratch every time. There are a few role models: Klaus Meine or Frank Zander, they made it. Or my parents – but they weren’t separated for a day of their marriage. I met my second wife Eva quite by chance, at the premiere of the ‘Troublemaker’ with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill she suddenly sat next to me. This turned into a happy relationship – until one got into trouble. Dating is a problem these days. Tinder is not for me, so I prefer to go on lonely walks in the forest. That was balm for the soul during the Corona period. “
Speaking of which: How did you spend the time in lockdown?
Otto: “I was at home, completely forgetting how beautiful it is! And if you live alone, distance rules are not a problem. And the new anonymity through FFP2 masks was interesting for me. Also, I was really scared of getting sick. I’m such a small hypochondriac, at the slightest cough I thought, now you’ve got it, it flew in from Ischgl especially for me. Now that I have to get out again, I like to think about the quiet time. You always want what you don’t have right now … “
If you could do magic, what would you like to magic away?
Otto: “I don’t want to conjure anything away – I’d rather conjure it up: I would like to be able to play the piano and, even better, the guitar. Otherwise my magic is enough for me – it works quite well. Making people laugh is also a kind of enchantment. In addition, it borders on a miracle that it has worked for so long and that new Otto fans keep coming. Ten years ago I thought: now it will be over at some point – but it will still go on. Generations are coming up again. Children also find Otto funny again now. It’s hard to understand. I’m not even target group oriented, I never was. I just do what I like myself – and that has worked quite well so far. “
You’re turning 73 now, even if you don’t tell your age. Can you hide it so well or do you really not notice the age?
Otto: “I am just good at pretending. No, seriously: Toi toi toi, I haven’t had a problem with it so far. I do a lot of sports, play tennis, roller-skate, run up and down stairs. I am always on the move. And two and a half hours on stage is also good training, suitable for marathons. In addition, I eat a low-pollutant diet, muesli in the morning and little in the evening. I actually still feel like 20 years ago, for me 70 is actually the new 30. My hair has been decreasing for decades – and otherwise there are actually no side effects. “
Accordingly, retirement is not an issue?
Otto: “Not really, but yesterday I got an emergency call from my bank: ‘Mr Waalkes, your account is overflowing, what should we do?’ – “Let it go!” I have never tried hard to earn money, it is somehow easier for me to spend it. Where does the money come from? No idea. I really enjoy painting. And rumors on the stock market: ‘The increase in value of an Otto picture is greater than that of the Dax. Everyone has been investing ever since. Otto-Huus is also doing well, we’ve just renovated it. “
In the middle of the “Catweazle” shoot, the first corona lockdown burst. How was the shoot under Corona conditions?
Otto: “That was very unusual. We had to stop filming for two weeks. We were shooting in the Speicherstadt in Hamburg, suddenly two law enforcement officers came and stopped: ‘Cut! Camera off! Something like that had never happened before. When we were allowed to continue, there were more hygiene officers on set than actors. That could be seen directly, on the masks: the camera team had black masks, equipment green, lighting red, etc. We were all divided into clusters, tested every day, completely isolated. But that’s also how we merged into one unit. No one out of 100 people tested positive by the end. That was 100 percent positive! “
Your young film partner Julius Weckauf also plays a big role.
Otto: “The Julius has a natural charm. He had just turned 12 when we started. He’s got a lot of routine for his age. He has remained so wonderfully spontaneous, I can still learn something from him. It’s still entertaining during the breaks – and still disciplined. When I saw The Boy Needs Some Fresh Air, I really wanted this partner. The only problem was: children are only allowed to shoot a few hours a day. There was a supervisor there who stopped the time. That’s why we doubled the children for rehearsals. “