Christopher Walken



Christopher Walken (born Ronald Walken on March 31, 1943) is an Academy Award-winning American film and theatre actor. He was born in the Astoria section of the New York City borough of Queens to Paul, a German father, and Rosalie, a Scottish-born mother. Walken has been married to casting director Georgianne Walken since 1969.

Walken initially trained as a dancer in musical theatre before moving on to more serious roles in theatre and then film. He has a considerable body of work in theatre, with over 100 plays to his credit. Walken won the Clarence Derwent Award for his performance in The Lion in Winter in 1966 and an Obie for his 1975 performance in Kid Champion. He has played the main role in a number of Shakespeare plays, notably Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Coriolanus. Walken tried his hand at writing and directing with the short five-minute film Popcorn Shrimp in 2001. He also wrote and acted the main role in a play about Elvis Presley titled Him in 1995.

Walken has also appeared in over 100 movies and television shows since 1953, including The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, Batman Returns, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, and Catch Me If You Can, and in classic TV series such as Kojak and The Naked City. Walken attained cult status in 90's, playing the role of the Archangel Gabriel in the first three The Prophecy movies. His films have grossed a cumulative North American profit of over USD 1.8 billion.

Walken was George Lucas' second choice for Han Solo after Harrison Ford. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Deer Hunter, where he played a disturbed Vietnam vet alongside Robert De Niro. Walken was nominated again in 2002 for Catch Me if You Can.

He has also starred in three music videos. His first video role was as the Angel of Death in Madonna's 1993 "Bad Girl" video, the second appearance was in Skid Row's "Breakin' Down" video, and the third one in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" in 2001. In addition to this, Walken has voiced characters in a number of video games.

He is also the only actor to play a Bond villain and a Batman villain.

Walken first appeared on the screen when he was ten years old in the 1953 television show The Wonderful John Acton as the show's narrator. Over the next twenty years, he would find his acting ground in television, an experimental film, Me and My Brother, and a thriving career in theatre. Walken played a small role opposite Sean Connery in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes in 1971. Here he plays in what is essentially a heist movie with a nod towards seventies preoccupations with social surveillance.

In 1972, Walken played his first starring role in The Mind Snatchers. He plays a borderline sociopathic American soldier stationed in Germany, in a science fiction film which deals with mind control and normalization.

Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall has Walken playing the strange and suicidal brother of Annie Hall (Diane Keaton); this Academy Award-winning film is often cited by Walken and others as the first film that brought the actor and his unusual qualities to the attention of the mainstream viewing public. 1978 saw the release of a western, titled Shoot the Sun Down, which had originally been filmed in 1976 and which also co-starred Margot Kidder just before she rose to fame in the Superman films.

Walken won his first and only Academy Award for best supporting actor with his performance in the controversial 1978 film, The Deer Hunter. He plays a young Pittsburgh steelworker with a poetic bent who is emotionally and spiritually destroyed by his combat experience of war in Vietnam. Walken's performance is notable for his transformation from a sensitive, gentle character to a self-destructive, zoned out automaton, high on heroin and gambling with his life at Russian roulette. To get the hollowed-out look for his character, Walken reportedly ate nothing but bananas and rice for a week.

Walken's first film of the 1980s was the scandalous and controversial Heaven's Gate. This film led to the financial ruin of United Artists, hastened the end of directorial control of films in Hollywood, and offended many in a climate marked by a return to political conservatism with the election of Ronald Reagan. The film received extremely negative reviews in the United States, but was seen in a more favorable light by European critics and a 2004 re-release in selected cinemas in the USA and Australia has attracted a more positive reevaluation of the artistic merits of the film. Although Walken's role does not provide him with the opportunities offered by Michael Cimino's previous film The Deer Hunter, his cold and alien menace as a highly efficient hired gun is unexpectedly offset by a romantic vulnerability and a subtly amusing take on his character's aspirations to social betterment.

After Heaven's Gate, Walken starred in the 1981 action-adventure The Dogs of War filmed by famous Technicolor cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Walken plays schoolteacher Johnny Smith in David Cronenberg's 1983 adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone. After lying in a coma for five years, Smith awakes to find he has psychic powers. Walken later spoofed this role in a sketch on Saturday Night Live titled "Ed Glosser: Trivial Psychic." His performance in this film is often regarded as one of his best.

Walken played the role of a James Bond villain in A View to a Kill (1985). He plays opposite Roger Moore as Max Zorin, a psychotic villain who runs a horse stable which suspiciously always produces winning horses. Walken dyed his hair blond to befit Zorin's origins as a Nazi experiment).

At Close Range has Walken starring as Brad Whitewood, a psychopathic rural Pennsylvania family crime boss who tries to bring his two estranged sons (played by real-life brothers Sean Penn and Chris Penn) into his criminal world. Based on a true story about the Bruce Johnston crime family which operated in eastern Pennsylvania during the late 1970s, this independent film has received much critical acclaim over the years.

Walken had a role in The Comfort of Strangers, an art house film directed by Paul Schrader. The film has the notable distinction of providing a role for Walken that disturbed even him. He plays Robert, a decadent Italian aristocrat who lives with his wife (Helen Mirren) in Venice, in addition to having extreme sexual tastes and murderous tendencies. Sporting Armani suits, Walken provides an understated performance that combines charm, evil, and sudden, shocking violence.

King of New York was a film directed by noted independent New York filmmaker Abel Ferrara that has attracted both a cult following and the attention of serious film theorists (for example Nicole Brenez). Walken stars as mysterious but ruthless New York City drug dealer Frank White, recently released from prison and set on reclaiming his criminal territory by any means necessary. White also has moral pretensions, acting as a kind of a Robin Hood figure. In this film, Walken has the opportunity and screen time to demonstrate his range and his experimental abilities as an actor.

In 1992, Walken was in Batman Returns, a film with immense success at the box office and still has quite a following. Here, he plays greedy millionaire industrialist Max Schreck, who attempts to get Oswald Cobblepot elected as Mayor of Gotham City for his own personal gain. Despite being the only normal one of the villains, it is he who is the most evil, as he was responsible for Selina Kyle's transformation into Catwoman and he manipulated both the Penguin and the citizens of Gotham City in an attempt to build a power plant which steals, instead of supplies, Gotham's power. His character can be seen as a reflection of Bruce Wayne.

Walken plays a scene opposite Dennis Hopper in True Romance, scripted by Quentin Tarantino. This so-called "Sicilian scene" has become a cult favorite and is frequently hailed by critics, professional and amateur alike, as the best scene in the film. This scene alone is the subject of four commentaries on the DVD attesting to its cult status. After an exchange of dialogue, Walken's character, Sicilian gangster Vincenzo Coccotti, summarily executes Hopper's character after deliberate provocation by the latter.

Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, which has received many accolades. One part of the movie, involving Walken, contains another frequently quoted cult scene. Here Walken offers a slightly disturbing, but nonetheless amusing turn as a Vietnam veteran who delivers a watch to a small boy from his dead father and explains, in a long speech, just how the watch had been hidden during his long years in a prisoner of war camp.

Later in 1994, Walken had a part in A Business Affair. This is one of Walken's few outings in a principal role in a romantic comedy. He plays Vanni Corso, an American publisher living in London who falls for one of his authors. Walken also dances a tango, although it is difficult to see much detail due to the way it is filmed.

Walken had six acting roles in 1995. Wild Side was directed by Donald Cammell, who directed the experimental landmark film of sixties counter-culture Performance with Mick Jagger. Cammell removed his name from the 1995 studio cut of Wild Side and a far superior director's cut was only released posthumously in 2000. The film boasts one of Walken's most extreme performance. In one notable and lengthy scene his character, high on drugs, graphically threatens to rape his chauffeur, an undercover cop.

The Prophecy is a horror film directed by Gregory Widen, also featuring Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen and Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer, Walken takes on the role of the Archangel Gabriel. In this account, Gabriel has rebelled against God because God favors humans over angels. The film and its two sequels has attracted a cult following amongst Walken's fans. Two further sequels without Walken have been made, one was released on DVD in 2005. Walken's over the top but nuanced performance in these films is a favorite with many fans.

The Addiction is another horror film and Walken's second collaboration with director Abel Ferrara and writer Nicholas St. John, dealing with modern vampires in New York City, using vampirism as a metaphor for the Christian doctrine of original sin. Walken plays an ancient vampire who has learned to control his addiction for blood (an outward manifestation of the inward hunger) to the degree that he is able to function fairly normally in society.

In the 1996 film Last Man Standing, Walken plays a sadistic henchman who kills for the sheer joy of it. Last Man Standing is director Walter Hill's contribution to a collection of films inspired by the novel Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett.

In 1999 Walken played the role of Calvin Webber in the romantic comedy Blast from the Past (film). Walken plays the role of a brilliant, eccentric, and paranoid Caltech nuclear physicist whose fears on a nuclear holocaust resulting from the Cold War lead him to build an enormous self-sustaining fallout shelter beneath his suburban Los Angeles home.

One of Walken's last 90s movie appearances was as The Headless Horseman in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, although his face was only seen three times in the movie, due to the nature of the character.

In 2000, Walken was cast as the lead, along with Faith Prince, in James Joyce's The Dead on Broadway. A "play with music", The Dead was directed by Richard Nelson. The show featured music by Shaun Davey, conducted by Charles Prince with music coordination and percussion by Tom Partington. James Joyce's The Dead won a Tony Award that year for Best Book for a Musical.

Walken had a notable music video performance in 2001 with Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice. Directed by Spike Jonze, it won six MTV awards in 2001 and also won best video of all time in April 2002, in a list of the top 100 videos of all time, compiled from a survey of musicians, directors, and music industry figures conducted by a UK music TV channel VH1. In this video, Walken performs a tap dance around the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles. Walken also helped choreograph the dance. Also in 2001 Walken played Clem in David Spade's comedy "Joe Dirt" and a very eccentric film director in "America's Sweethearts" who kidnaps the movie he's working on, from a worried movie studio head (Stanley Tucci).

Walken played Frank Abagnale, Sr. in Catch Me If You Can, a film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is inspired by the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), the legendary con artist who managed to pass himself off as several identities and forge millions of dollars worth of checks, with an FBI agent (played by Tom Hanks) hot on his trail. Walken plays Frank Jr.'s father, in a difficult and emotionally charged role. His portrayal earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Walken also had a part in the 2003 action comedy film The Rundown starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Seann William Scott, in which he plays a ruthless despot who pays people very small amounts of money and deliberately makes sure they get in debt with him.

Man on Fire is a 2004 film directed by Tony Scott, starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Radha Mitchell, Giancarlo Giannini, and Walken. It is a remake of the 1987 film of the same name. The film was originally based on a series of books by A. J. Quinnell. Man on Fire loosely follows the first of the series about a former Marine and Foreign Legion soldier turned mercenary. The remake was released on April 23, 2004 in the United States and drew $23 million USD in its opening weekend. Most recently, he played the role of Morty, a sympathetic inventor in the comedy Click.

Walken will next be seen in Man of the Year with Robin Williams and Lewis Black and the 2007 film adaptation Hairspray.

Christopher Walken has stated in an interview that he never has—and never will—turn down a role in a film unless it conflicts with another film he is scheduled to play in. He has also stated that he never regrets the roles he plays, even the ones which got him typecast or nominated for Razzie awards.

Walken has attracted a strong cult following as an actor. One reason for this is the type of films he has appeared in, for example gangster and science fiction/fantasy films, or films by directors with their own cult following such as Abel Ferrara, David Cronenberg, and Quentin Tarantino. But more important factors are his odd appearance, quirky mannerisms, and ability to exude menace. Walken is best imitated for his deadpan affect and offkey pauses.

Additionally, his comedic efficiency comes as a surprise to those who are familiar only with the more serious roles that comprise the majority of his body of work, and so Walken is admired for his versatility. This cult status is demonstrated by the number of photo-shopped images of Walken on the net, the frequency of impersonations either by amateurs or other professional actors (notably Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollak, and Jay Mohr), the invention of fictitious stories about his activities, and the invention of various things he might have said.

There is also the fan practice of rote reciting some of his speeches from film - for example True Romance, Pulp Fiction and The Prophecy. There are even short films and plays which use his persona.

Walken has hosted the comedy sketch and satire TV series Saturday Night Live on six occasions. His recurring sketch "The Continental" has been a favorite with audiences. However, his most popular SNL performance was a spoof of "Behind the Music" featuring a recording session of Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." In the guise of record producer Bruce Dickinson (not to be confused with Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer for Iron Maiden), Walken makes passionate and slightly unhinged speeches to the band. More importantly, contrary to the opinions of most of the band, he is obsessed with getting "more cowbell" into the song. This sketch has proven immensely popular and has garnered a large cult following.

Walken also spoofed his role from The Dead Zone in a sketch titled "Ed Glosser: Trivial Psychic", in which the title character had the ability to accurately predict meaningless, trivial future events ("You're going to get an ice cream headache. It's going to hurt real bad...right here for eight, nine seconds.").

He also spoofed his role from A View to a Kill in a sketch titled "Lease with an Option to Kill", in which reprised his role as Max Zorin. Zorin, who had taken on some qualities of other notable Bond villians (Blofeld's cat and suit, Emilio Largo's eye patch), was mostly upset that everything was going wrong for him: his lair was under still construction, his henchmen had jump suits that did not fit, and his shark tank lacked sharks, instead having a giant sea sponge. James Bond, portrayed by Phil Hartman, offered to get Zorin "a good deal" on the abandoned Blofeld volcanic lair if Zorin let him go, to which he reluctantly agreed.

Another notable performance was his song and dance rendition of the Irving Berlin standard "Let's Face the Music and Dance."

Finally, the "Colonel Angus" sketch, in which Walken played a dishonored Confederate officer, was a tour de force of ribald double entendres.

Attributing to his lasting effect, he was the subject of a hoax Presidential campaign as of August 2005. A website, Walken2008.com, presented numerous politically charged quotes from Walken, which his publicist dismissed as "100% not true."

The Urban Legends Reference Pages list the site as a fake. This hoax was perpetrated by the Internet message board General Mayhem.

In September 2006 in an interview with Conan O'Brien, Walken seemed quite amused by the fake presidential campaign and commented that he found it difficult to discover who started it. He stated that he would even run for president if people wanted him to ("What the heck!").Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home