Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood is always looking for great villains. Now I’m told that Christoph Waltz, a frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor race for his portrayal of the charmingly sadistic Col Hans Landa, will make a deal to star with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants, the Richard LaGravanese-scripted adaptation of the Sara Gruen novel for Fox 2000. Francis Lawrence is directing. The role at first appeared to belong to Sean Penn who’s been on a self-imposed big screen sabbatical, but the deal went south. Instead, Waltz will play the heavy in the Depression Era romantic triangle involving a veterinary medicine student (Pattinson) who joins a 2nd-rate travelling circus and falls for the star performer (Witherspoon). Waltz will play her husband, a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who is as mean to his wife as he is to the circus creatures. Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff and Andrew Tennenbaum are producing.

Waltz was a journeyman TV actor when Quentin Tarantino cast him to play Col. Hans Landa, the charmingly sadistic and manipulative Nazi officer. It got him a Hollywood agent at ICM, and the chance to make Hollywood films. Pending a deal, this would be Waltz’s second studio role. He played the villain opposite Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet for Columbia Pictures.