By Gary Geyer
Christopher Walken was born March 31, 1943. He is arguably the most famous cult movie actor in the world. He seems to specialize in psychos and misfits and has appeared in about 100 movies.
His roles over the years have ranged from the suicidal
Who me, eccentric?
“As a person, I have a quality that is eccentric. I have always played people who are kind of disturbed, or at least rhythmically different. It’s very fortunate that I’m an actor. If I worked doing anything else, I would probably be fired just for the look in my eye”
Punctuation? What’s that?
There’s a halting rhythm to Chris’s speech that has led to countless impersonators. He paces his words like this: It’s as, if, he’s . . . following. The punctuation rules, of another . . . galaxy.
Chris attempts to explain: “I have a peculiar way of speaking, I guess. It’s the punctuation, I think. I just have odd punctuation. When I was a kid, it used to bother me that they would say, ‘The period goes here. A comma goes here. This is this way.’ I thought, ‘No, it’s not. It is if I feel like it.’”
One of his many impersonators tells it this way: “At the supermarket Walken stared at a plump tomato and then puts it back.”I DON’T. Buy the tomatoes with. The stems. On them. They don’t. Degrade. They go. Down the sink. And into the WATER. Then. They get lodged in the throats of little. OTTERS.”
Christopher may be the most fascinating actor working today. His choices are always risky, which makes for interesting work. You can watch him eat a bowl of corn flakes and you’d be riveted because he’s just unpredictable.
Actor / director Peter Berg quotes Chris saying, “I like to find a little bit of Elvis in every role that I play.” Berg says, “If you look back on his roles now, it does make sense. I don’t think I’m giving away anything too secretive, but that is one of his things.”
Even with the most ruthless characters Chris has played, there’s always been a comedic undertone to his roles.
“Yeah, well I’ve always played comedy. My background is musical comedy theatre and that’s really where my training is. As an actor, that’s my training… You know, where the audience is part of the show.”
Chris says his “little trick” is to develop a little secret about the character he is playing.
He explains it this way: “I’m a big Jerry Lewis fan. I heard him say once in an interview that his big secret is he is only nine years old, and I thought, yes, absolutely. He’s like a kid. You get that feeling within certain people. Mick Jagger has it. I think that is a wonderful quality, especially when you get older”
Every time I had a scene with somebody I’d be thinking: What do you think of my hair? Do you like my hair? Do you like what they did to me? That they made me look like this? So next time you see the movie, every time I torture somebody I’m really thinking, You see what they did to me with this hair?”
Speaking of hair…
Chris says, ” My hair was famous before I was.” He adds, “There is a theory that my hair grows right out of my brain.”
Chris considers his “Don King” hair to be essential to his film success.
“I can’t explain it. I’ve thought about it a lot. It’s just a force of nature. They matted it down for Catch Me if You Can, and I felt naked.”
Chris confides, “I used to be prettier than I am, but I think I look better now. I was a pretty boy. Particularly in my early movies. I don’t like looking at them so much. There’s a sort of pretty thing about me.”
Joseph Papp has said, “The sensitive side of him is feminine. There is a marvelous ambiguity about seeing this very sexy, good looking man move quite eloquently onstage.”
On being an actor
“Sometimes I’m very happy with what I’ve done and sometimes I get depressed that I’m not better.”
Chris thinks that being an actor is something where you actually get better as you get older. He believes that emotional power is maybe the most valuable thing that an actor can have.
He says, “I think my strength… it’s my only strength. It’s the only thing I have. I know I’m original. And sometimes it’s not good and sometimes it’s very good.
If you are a fan of Chris’s intense characters, you may be interested to learn he started his show business career as a dancer. His most famous role before the movies was in the 1963 stage musical Best Foot Forward. His co-star was Liza Minelli.
As a child, Ronnie (Chris’s real name) and his brother did modeling and advertising work. When he was 10, he and his brother would take the subway to
He appeared in the background of many family TV shows, such as The Colgate Comedy Hour. As a teenager, he pursued a song and dance career.
It was during a 60s touring production of West Side Story that he met Georgianne, his future wife. They married in 1969, and have been together 35 years.
Georgianne gave up acting and is now a casting agent.
While his screen roles are more often on the bizarre side, his home life seems rather normal. Christopher and Georgianne lead a fairly quiet life. They live a few hours outside
“I live sort of in the country and I like that. It’s very quiet, it’s beautiful. Really almost everything I do is by myself. When I come to work, usually I just come to work. I never ask anybody anything. I get confused when people tell me things. Information can be very confusing.”
When asked what he thought was the sum total of his work, Chris replied, “Oh, I have an answer for that. It is what Don Quixote said. I hope to add some measure of grace.” <<
This article would not be complete for me without mentioning my all time two favorite Christopher Walken scenes.
Both were written by Quentin Tarantino.
The first is Chris’s sociopath- with-a-heart-of gold in Pulp Fiction. In an eight page monologue, he plays a former
The other is the Sicilian gangster he plays in True Romance. He is about to execute Dennis Hopper, a security guard, for not revealing his son’s whereabouts. When Hopper asks who he is, Walken responds, “The Antichrist. You got me in a vendetta kind of mood. You tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you.”
The two then have a philosophical conversation touching on the Moorish invasion of
This article was written with information acquired from past interviews, film magazines and fan sites.