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Christopher Walken (born March 31, 1943) is an Americanmarker stage and screen actor. He has appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows, including Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Sleepy Hollow, Brainstorm, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, At Close Range, King of New York, Batman Returns, True Romance, Catch Me If You Can, Wayne's World 2, Pulp Fiction, and Wedding Crashers, as well as music videos by recording artists such as Madonna and Fatboy Slim.

Walken's films have grossed more than $1.8 billion in the United States. He has also played the main role in the Shakespeare plays Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Coriolanus. He has several times guest-hosted Saturday Night Live, his most notable role being Bruce Dickinson in the "More Cowbell" sketch.

Walken debuted as a film director and script writer 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.

Early life

Walken was born Ronald Walken (named after actor Ronald Colman) into a Methodist family in Astoriamarker, Queensmarker, New Yorkmarker. His mother, Rosalie (born 1907), was a Scottish immigrant from Glasgowmarker, and his father, Paul Walken (1904-2001), emigrated from Germany in 1928 with his brothers, Wilhelm and Alois. His father was a baker and his mother worked as a window dresser. Restaurateur and TV cooking show host Lidia Bastianich, four years younger than Walken, worked at the Walkens' bakery when she was a young teen.

Influenced by their mother's own dreams of stardom, he and his brothers Kenneth and Glenn were child actors on television in the 1950s. Walken studied at Hofstra Universitymarker on Long Islandmarker, but did not graduate. Walken initially trained as a dancer in musical theater before moving on to dramatic roles in theatre and then film.

Career

Early roles

Walken first appeared on the screen as a child extra in numerous anthology series and variety shows during the Golden Age of Television. After appearing in a sketch with Martin and Lewis on The Colgate Comedy Hour, Walken decided to become an actor. He landed a regular role in the 1953 television show The Wonderful John Acton as the show's narrator. During this time, he was credited as "Ronnie Walken".

Over the next 20 years, he appeared frequently on television, landed an experimental film role in Me and My Brother, and had a thriving career in theater. In 1964, he changed his name to "Christopher" at the suggestion of a friend who believed the name suited him better. Coincidentally, Walken's last credited role under the name "Ronnie" was a character with the name of "Chris". Nowadays, he prefers to be known informally as "Chris" instead of "Christopher".

1970s

Walken made his feature film debut with a small role opposite Sean Connery in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes . In 1972's The Mind Snatchers a.k.a The Happiness Cage, Walken played his first starring role. In this science fiction film, which deals with mind control and normalization, he plays a sociopathic American soldier stationed in Germanymarker.

Paul Mazursky's 1976 film Next Stop, Greenwich Village has Walken under the name "Chris Walken" playing fictional poet and ladies man Robert Fulmer. Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall has Walken playing the suicidal brother of Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). In 1978, he appeared in Shoot the Sun Down, a western filmed in 1976 that costarred Margot Kidder. Along with Nick Nolte, Walken was considered by George Lucas for the part of Han Solo in Star Wars; the part ultimately went to Harrison Ford.

Walken won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter. He plays a young Pennsylvaniamarker steelworker who is emotionally destroyed by the Vietnam War. To help achieve a gaunt appearance for the role, Walken ate nothing but bananas and rice for a week.

1980s

Walken's first film of the 1980s was the controversial Heaven's Gate, helmed by Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino. Walken also starred in the 1981 action adventure The Dogs of War, directed by John Irvin. He surprised many critics and filmgoers with his intricate tap-dancing striptease in Herbert Ross's musical Pennies From Heaven. Walken then played schoolteacher-turned-psychic Johnny Smith in David Cronenberg's 1983 adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone. That same year, Walken also starred in Brainstorm alongside Natalie Wood and (in a minor role) his wife, Georgianne.

In 1985, Walken played a James Bond villain, Max Zorin, in A View to a Kill. Walken dyed his hair blond to befit Zorin's origins as a Nazi experiment. Walken played the role of Federal Agent Kyril Montana in Milagro Beanfield War in 1988. He also played the leading role of Whitley Strieber in 1989's Communion, an autobiographical film written by Strieber that was based on his claims that he and his family were subject to alien abductions.

At Close Range starred Walken as Brad Whitewood, a rural Tennessee crime boss who tries to bring his two sons into his empire, his character mostly based on Bruce Johnston.

In Biloxi Blues, Walken convincingly played an eccentric drill sergeant known for his stinging sarcasm and sharp wit, not dissimilar to his real life talents.

1990s

The Comfort of Strangers, an art house film directed by Paul Schrader, had the distinction of providing a role for Walken that disturbed even him. He plays Robert, a decadent Italianmarker aristocrat with extreme sexual tastes and murderous tendencies who lives with his wife (Helen Mirren) in Venicemarker.

King of New York, directed by Abel Ferrara, stars Walken as ruthless New York Citymarker drug dealer Frank White—recently released from prison and set on reclaiming his criminal territory. In 1992, Walken again played a supporting villain in Batman Returns as millionaire industrialist Max Shreck. Walken's next major film role was opposite Dennis Hopper in True Romance, scripted by Quentin Tarantino. His so-called Sicilian scene has been hailed by critics as the best scene in the film and is the subject of four commentaries on the DVD. Walken has a supporting role in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as a Vietnam veteran giving his dead comrade's son the family's prized possession—a gold watch—while explaining in graphic detail how he had hidden it from the Vietcong by smuggling it in his rectum, after the boy's father, in whose rectum the watch had previously been concealed, had died of dysentery. Also in 1992, Walken appeared in Madonna's controversial coffee table book, SEX, and he played Bobby, Cassandra's manager in Wayne's World 2.

Later in 1994, Walken starred in A Business Affair, a rare leading role for him in a romantic comedy. Walken manages to once again feature his trademark dancing scene as he performs the tango. In 1995, he appeared in Wild Side, The Prophecy and the modern vampire flick The Addiction, which was his second collaboration with director Abel Ferrara and writer Nicholas St. John. He also appeared in Nick of Time, which also stars Johnny Depp.

In the 1996 film Last Man Standing, Walken plays a sadistic gangster. That year, he played a prominent role in the video game Ripper, portraying Detective Vince Magnotta. Ripper made extensive use of real-time recorded scenes and a wide cast of celebrities in an interactive movie. In 1997, Walken starred in the comedy films Touch, Excess Baggage and had a minor role in the film Mousehunt. He also appeared in the drama/thriller film Suicide Kings which also filled with suspense and humor.

In 1998, Walken played an influential gay New York theater critic in John Turturro's film Illuminata.

In 1999, Walken played Calvin Webber in the romantic comedy Blast from the Past. Webber is a brilliant but eccentric Caltechmarker nuclear physicist whose fears of a nuclear war lead him to build an enormous fallout shelter beneath his suburban home. The same year, he appeared as the Headless Horseman in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.

Walken also starred in two music videos in the 1990s. His first video role was as the Angel of Death in Madonna's 1993 "Bad Girl", and the second appearance was in Skid Row's "Breakin' Down" video.

2000s

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 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—in a list of the top 100 videos of all time compiled from a survey of musicians, directors, and music industry figures conducted by UKmarker music TV channel VH1—won Best Video of All Time in April 2002. In this video, Walken dances and flies around the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Los Angelesmarker; Walken also helped choreograph the dance. Also in 2001, Walken played a gangster who was in the witness protection program in the David Spade comedy Joe Dirt and an eccentric film director in America's Sweethearts.

Walken played Frank Abagnale, Sr. in Catch Me If You Can. It is inspired by the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a con artist who passed himself off as several identities and forged millions of dollars worth of checks. 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. He was nominated for a Razzie (Worst Supporting Actor) in 2002's The Country Bearsand in two 2003 movies, Gigli and Kangaroo Jack.Walken also starred in the Ben Stiller/Jack Black film, Envy in which he plays J-Man, a crazy guy who helps Ben Stiller's character.

Most recently, he played the role of Morty, a sympathetic inventor who's more than meets the eye in the comedy/drama Click, and he also appeared in Man of the Year, with Robin Williams and Lewis Black. He costarred in the 2007 film adaptation Hairspray—where he is seen singing and dancing in a romantic duet with John Travolta—and he portrayed the eccentric but cruel crime lord and Ping-Pong enthusiast Feng in the 2007 comedy Balls of Fury, opposite Dan Fogler.

Walken was in the movie Five Dollars a Day, released in 2008, in which he plays a con man proud of living like a king on $5 a day.

The film, The Maiden Heist, a comedy costarring Morgan Freeman, about security guards in an art museum, debuted at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 25 June 2009.

Walken can now be found in Universal Studios' "Disaster" attraction (formerly "Earthquake and the Magic of Effects"). Walken portrays the owner of "Disaster Studios" and encourages guests to be extras in his latest film, Mutha Nature. Walken is projected on a clear screen, much like a life-size hologram, and interacts with the live-action talent.

Popularity and imitators

Walken is imitated for his deadpan effect, sudden off-beat pauses, and strange speech rhythm, in a manner similar to William Shatner (this was subject to parody in a Robot Chicken episode). He is revered for his quality of danger and menace, but his unpredictable deliveries and expressions make him invaluable in comedy as well. Walken is noted for refusing movie roles only rarely, having stated in interviews that he will decline a role only if he is simply too busy on other projects to take it. He regards each role as a learning experience.

He is a frequently impersonated actor in Hollywoodmarker. Walken impressionists include Johnny Depp, Dave Grohl, Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Izzard, Jay Mohr, Kevin Pollak, Eminem, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Davis and on the Kevin Bishop Show where his catchphrase is "these are my fucking crisps". He is also frequently referenced in various other works of pop culture, such as in the Fountains of Wayne song "Hackensack". Walken has played the main villain in a number of popular motion pictures. MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch aired a match between Walken and Gary Oldman, citing their portrayals of many memorable Hollywood villains. On February 15, 2008, he accepted Harvard's award as Hasty Pudding Man of the Year. Walken refers to himself as “world’s worst impersonator”.

Jay Mohr impersonated Walken's voice reading a book to children in the "Insane Clown Poppy" episode of The Simpsons.

Washington DC's WTEM ESPN 980 started a weekly feature where "Christopher Walken" (portrayed by producer Marc Sterne) calls in during the noon to 2 p.m. slot to comment on his beloved Redskins' performance during the American football season.

Appearances on Saturday Night Live

Walken has hosted the comedy sketch and satire TV series Saturday Night Live seven times, and has a standing offer from Lorne Michaels to host the show whenever Walken's schedule permits. One of his more famous SNL performances was a spoof of "Behind the Music", featuring a recording session of Blue Öyster Cult's " the Reaper". In the guise of record producer Bruce Dickinson (not to be confused with Bruce Dickinson, lead singer for Iron Maiden), Walken makes passionate and slightly unhinged speeches to the band and is obsessed with getting "more cowbell" into the song. The phrase "Gotta have more cowbell" has since been adapted to merchandise, i.e. t-shirts, etc. He is also known for his part in one of Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch's "The Lovers" skits. His character brought a lady friend to meet The Lovers, and she is instead subjected to learning the past history that Walken's character shares with The Lovers. He also divulges private information about his sex life with his girlfriend, much to her horror ("She ventured places no lover had dared go before...specifically, the ear canal")!

Walken 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 spoofed his role from A View to a Kill in a sketch titled "Lease with an Option to Kill", in which he reprised his role as Max Zorin. Zorin, who had taken on some qualities of other notable Bond villains (Blofeld's cat and suit, Emilio Largo's eye patch), was upset that everything was going wrong for him. His lair was still under construction; his henchmen had jump suits that didn't fit; and his shark tank lacked sharks, having a giant sea sponge instead. A captive 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.

He performed a song and dance rendition of the Irving Berlin standard, "Let's Face the Music and Dance". Finally, there was the "Colonel Angus" sketch, laden with ribald double entendres, in which Walken played a dishonored Confederate officer. Walken's SNL appearances have proved so popular that he is one of the few SNL hosts for whom a Best of... SNL DVD is available (other celebrity hosts who have a Best of... SNL DVD are Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin), an honor usually reserved only for SNL cast members.

Until 2003, Walken had a recurring SNL sketch called "The Continental", in which Walken played a "suave ladies' man" who in reality cannot do anything to keep women from giving him the cold shoulder. Though he is outwardly chivalrous, his more perverted tendencies inevitably drive away his date over his pleading objections. For instance, he invites a woman to wash up in his bathroom; once she is inside, it becomes obvious that the bathroom mirror is a two-way mirror when the "Continental" is seen lighting up a cigarette. What distinguishes "The Continental" is that various ladies are never seen; the camera represents their point of view.

Walken hosted Saturday Night Live on April 5, 2008, which was the first time an episode hosted by Walken did not have a "Continental" sketch or a monologue where he sings and dances.

Presidential candidacy hoax

Walken became the subject of a hoax controversy in October 2006 when a fake website started in August of that year by members of internet forum Genmay.com announced that he was running for President of the United States. Some believed it was authentic, until Walken's publicist dismissed the claims. When asked about the hoax in a September 2006 interview with Conan O'Brien, Walken was amused by the hoax; and when asked to come up with a campaign slogan, he replied, "What the Heck?" and "No More Zoos!"The site, Walken2008.com, remains online.

Personal life

Walken has been married to Georgianne Walken (born Thon) since 1969; she is a casting director, most notably for The Sopranos. They live in rural Connecticutmarker and have no children. They also have a vacation home on Block Islandmarker, RI. In regard to his villainous roles preceding him when meeting new people, Walken says, "When they see me in a movie, they expect me to be something nasty ... That's why it's good to defy expectations sometimes."

Filmography

Awards

References

  1. The religion of Christopher Walken, actor
  2. [1] "Both of his parents were immigrants -- his father, Paul, from Germany; his mother, Rosalie, from Glasgow, Scotland."
  3. Istria on the Internet -- Gastronomy -- Lidia Bastianich; Retrieved January 30, 2008
  4. The Mind Snatchers is also known as The Happiness Cage and The Demon Within.
  5. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074963/
  6. He is incorrectly credited as "Christopher Wlaken" in the film's credits.
  7. ' Interview with director David Leeds
  8. Edinburgh International Film Festival, 2009
  9. Movie Villains: Christopher Walken Archives
  10. http://www.movieset.com/theirishman/videos/q1hoe2/Christopher-Walken---Interview-from-the-set-of-The-Irishman
  11. http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Insane_Clown_Poppy


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