The Deer Hunter
“Careers are not often as chosen as people think they are. People talk to me about my choices. I don’t make choices, hardly. Things happen, and you say yes or no - usually ‘yes,’ because it's always better to do something. What's the choice? Somebody will say, ‘Don’t do that part, you don’t need to do that part.’ And I’ll say, ‘Why not? What am I going to do? Sit around the house?’ I'd much rather go to work, and see actors, and have fun.” Christopher Walken
An American film, television and theatre actor, Christopher Walken is well-known for portraying menacing or psychologically damaged characters, and has occasionally used that image for comedic effect. One of the most engaging, consistent performers of today, Walken garnered a wealth of critical appreciation for his scene-stealing role of troubled Vietnam vet “Nick,” alongside Robert DeNiro, in The Deer Hunter (1978). Due to his luminous performance, Walken netted an Academy Award, a New York Film Critics Circle award, as well as earned nominations at BAFTA and the Emmys. In a more recent film, he gained acclaim and recognition for his supporting role of a father of teen con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002), where Walken picked up a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a National Society of Film Critics Award. His much-admired performance also received an Oscar nomination.
With almost 100 movies on his resume, Walken has a long and storied career. He is well-remembered for his remarkable performances in such movies as The Anderson Tapes (1971), Annie Hall (1977), Pennies from Heaven (1981), The Dead Zone (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), Batman Returns (1992), True Romance (1993), Wayne's World 2 (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994), Nick of Time (1995), The Funeral (1996), Excess Baggage (1997, with Alicia Silverstone), Suicide Kings (1997) and Sleepy Hollow (1999, earned a MTV Movie nomination). His more recent film credits include the comedy Joe Dirt (2001), the comedy The Country Bears (2002), the thrilling Poolhall Junkies (2002), The Rundown (2003), Man on Fire (2004, with Danzel Washington), Envy (2004), The Stepford Wives (2004), Around the Bend (2004), Wedding Crashers (2005), John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes (2005) and Domino (2005). Walken’s fans should not miss his performances in the forthcoming Fade to Black (2006), Click (2006, costarring Adam Sandler) and Man of the Year (2006).
On the small screen, Walken is a rare actor who made the successful transition from child player to adult star, Walken has charmed TV audiences with a number of projects during his long-term career. In 2001, he won an American Comedy Award after making a significant guest starring appearance in “Saturday Night Live.” He also delivered fine performances as a muscular farmer in the TV movie series, Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991), Skylark (1993) and Sarah: Plain and Tall: Winter's End (1999), for which Walken earned an Emmy nomination. Additionally, his good portrayal of Harry Nash in the television movie Who Am I This Time (1982) garnered Walken positive response.
On stage, Walken made a reputation for himself as a star with his impressive body of work in theater that includes more than 100 plays to his credits. He won a Clarence Derwent award for his performance in “The Lion in Winter” (1966), and a Theatre World Award for his 1967 performance in “The Rose Tattoo.” After taking home a Drama Desk Award for “Lemon Sky” (1970), Walken added two Obie Awards to his collection, one for “Kid Champion” (1975) and the other for “The Sea Gulf” (1981).
Off screen, on August 20, 2005, Walken denied gossip that said he is preparing to run for U.S. President. In 2004, he planted his hand and footprints in the cement outside the celebrated Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. As for his private life, Walken is the husband of casting agent Georgianne Walken.
Childhood and Family:
On March 31, 1943, Ronald Walken, who would later be famous as Christopher Walken, was born and raised in Queens, New York, to immigrant parents. His father, Paul Walken, emigrated from Germany and spent a great deal of his time managing the family’s bakery store called Walken’s Bakery. Rosalie Walken, Christopher Walken’s mother, came from Scotland and once dreamed of becoming an actress. After she married, her desires were transferred to her sons, Kenneth, Christopher and Glenn. As soon as her sons could walk, Rosalie sent them to the dance classes.
Starting out as a model when he was only 14 months old, Chris received his first acting job on the short-lived sitcom The Wonderful John Acton and was also frequently heard on the radio by the time he was 10. Chris attended the Professional Children’s School in Mahattan and continued his studies at Hofstra University, where he majored in English Literature. However, he dropped out of college a year later to pursue a stage career. Chris later perfected his acting skills by joining The Actor Studio, where he was taught by renowned drama teachers, including Lee Strasberg.
While working on West Side Story, in 1963, he met Georgianne, one of the show’s dancers. Three years later, in 1969, they were married.
A New York native, Chris still remains a resident of New York City. When he is not in his brownstone home on Manhattan’s upper West Side, he spends time in another home located in the Connecticut countryside.
Catch Me If You Can
“I posed naked, snuggling with two cats, for a series of calendar pictures which were a big success. I haven’t seen those pictures in a long, long time, but I remember doing it and I’ve always wondered what kind of cats those were. Finally, I’ve just accepted that they were just cats and I'll never know what kind.” Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken started his career as a model when he was only a baby. As a child, he moved on to TV and, with his brothers, appeared as an extra in a number of live TV shows in his hometown, including the Ernie Kovacs Show, Colgate Comedy Hour, Playhouse 90 and the Armstrong Circle Theater. By the time he was 10, Walken had made his debut as a regular in the short-lived sitcom “The Wonderful John Acton” (1953). He also sporadically replaced his younger brother Glenn as Michael ‘Mike’ Bauer in the CBS daytime drama “The Guiding Light” (1954-1956). Walken then turned his attention to the stage and made his Broadway debut in Archibald MacLeish’s award-winning verse play “J.B” at age 16. A well-trained dancer, Walken decided to quit college when he was hired to support a very young Liza Minelli in a Broadway musical titled ”Best Foot Forward” (1963).
He went on to work primarily as a dancer in musicals for some time until he won the starring role of King Phillip in the Broadway production of “The Lion Winter” in 1966. Walken did so well that many critics praised his performance. He took home his first award, the prestigious Clarence Derwent, for his acting in the historical drama. A year later, in “The Rose Tattoo,” Walken netted a Theatre World for his fine acting in the play. He won a Drama Desk for “Lemon Sky” (1970), then two Obies for “Kid Champion” (1974-1975) and for “The Sea Gulf” (1981).
After a 10-year absence from TV, Walken resurfaced as Lamprocles in the made-for-TV film Barefoot in Athens (1966). He made a big move to the big screen three years later when he was offered a part in Me and My Brother (1969). He soon made an impact on audiences as a juvenile electronics expert in the Sidney Lumet-directed thriller The Anderson Tapes (1971, opposite Sean Connery). Walken continued to star in The Happiness Cage (1972), Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), James Ivory’s Roseland (1977) and The Sentinel (1977) before delivering a memorable cameo as Diane Keaton’s very creepy brother in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977).
“I said I would take any part. I just wanted to be in the movie. And then they offered me this wonderful Nick part.” Christopher Walken
Walken’s film career immediately sky-rocketed when director Michael Cimino cast him in the supporting role of Nikonar ‘Nick’ Chevotarevich, a young Pittsburgh steelworker who is emotionally and spiritually shattered by his combat experiences in the Vietnam War, in Cimino’s masterpiece The Deer Hunter (1978), which also starred Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Walken was so captivating that he took home the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He also nabbed a New York Film Critics Circle, as well as earned nominations at BAFTA and the Emmys.
Following his much-talked-about performance, the Oscar winner was seen in a series of works that exploited his unique style to full effect. He rejoined The Deer Hunter director Cimino to portray gunslinger Nathan D. Champion in the terrible Heaven’s Gate (1980), showcased his dancing abilities as the oily villain in Pennies From Heaven (1981) and effectively portrayed the schoolteacher Johnny Smith for The Dead Zone (1983). In 1985, he played the role of the campy nemesis to Roger Moore’s James Bond in A View to a Kill and next shifted gears to play a father with a criminal past in the downbeat, but well-acted, At Close Range (1986), costarring Sean Penn. Walken also headlined the 1988 film adaptation of Neil Simons Biloxi Blues, where he portrayed the arch-rival sergeant to a wisecracking new recruit. In Communion (1989), he was cast as real-life writer Whitley Streiber who alleged had encounters with aliens. On the small screen, Walken gave a fine performance in the television movie Who Am I This Time (1982).
During the 1990s, Walken was still much loved by many critics although not all his projects became major hits. He started the decade by working with director Paul Schrader to play decadent Italian aristocrat Robert, opposite Helen Mirren as his onscreen wife, in The Comfort of Strangers (1990). 1990 also marked Walken’s first collaboration with director Abel Ferrara in the violent King of New York (1990). After being featured as department store owner Max Schreck in Batman Returns (1992), Walken landed a supporting part in the Quentin Tarantino-scripted True Romance (1993) and costarred opposite comedian Mike Myers in the hilarious Wayne's World 2 (1993). The following year, as Captain Koons, Walken offered a notable monologue about the history of a gold watch in Tarantino’s critically acclaimed Pulp Fiction (1994), a performance that popularized Walken as a successful character actor. He went on to work with interesting characters in such films as the thriller Nick of Time (1995, starring Johnny Depp), Ferrara's The Funeral (1996), Excess Baggage (1997, with Alicia Silverstone) and Suicide Kings (1997). In addition to his dark roles, Walken also offered wildly over-the-top comic characters such as an exterminator in the comedy Mouse Hunt (1997) and as a turn-of-the-century drama critic in John Turturro’s Illuminata (1998). He also voiced the character of Cutter in the animated Antz (1998). In 1999, Walken was nominated for Best Villain at the MTV Movie Awards for his portrayal of the vicious Headless Horseman for Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Still in 1999, he teamed with Sissy Spacek to play the bomb shelter dwelling parents of Brendan Fraser in Blast from the Past. Aside from his busy schedule with films, he also had several projects on TV, most notably as a stalwart farmer romancing an Eastern woman (Glenn Close) in a series of TV movies, Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991, received an Emmy nomination), Skylark (1993) and Sarah: Plain and Tall: Winter's End (1999).
A veteran stage actor, Walken also maintained his stage career. After four-years, he returned to his theatrical roots in 2000 to star alongside Blair Brown in a musical adaptation of James Joyce’s short story “The Dead.” His compelling performance brought Walken a Tony for Best Actor. He also made an independent movie, the crime drama The Opportunists (2000) that same year. 2001 saw roles in Jungle Juice (2001), the Sundance-screened Scotland, Pa. (2001), the comedy Joe Dirt (2001), the lackluster Julia Roberts comedy America’s Sweethearts (2001) and The Affair of the Necklace (2001).
Also in 2001, Walken surprised his admirers with his dancing skills when he was featured in the Fat Boy Slim music video “Weapon of Choice.” The Spike Jonze-directed video was in heavy rotation on MTV in 2001, and ended up becoming the best video of all time in April 2002. 2001 also proved that Walken is an accomplished comic actor when he picked up an American Comedy for Funniest Male Guest Appearance with his hilarious appearance in the syndicated show Saturday Night Live.
Walken had another triumph in his hands the following year when delivered a touching and poignant performance as the father of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale, Jr., a celebrated con artist who managed to pass himself off as several identities and forge millions of dollars worth of checks, in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002). Walken's bright supporting turn as the once-prosperous businessman Frank Abagnale, Sr. garnered the actor several awards like a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild, a National Society of Film Critics, as well as received an Academy Award nomination. In the meantime, Walken also made the comedy The Country Bears (2002), the thrilling Poolhall Junkies (2002) and the comedy romance Plots with a View (2002).
With Catch Me if You Can, Walken proved that he was still on track. He was back in the comedy genre with Kangaroo Jack (2003), experienced a box-office failure with Gigli (2003, opposite Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) and had supporting roles in such films as The Rundown (2003) and Man on Fire (2004, with Danzel Washington). Next, he was the bizarre J-Man in the horribly unfunny Ben Stiller-Jack Black comedy Envy (2004), portrayed the frightening Mike Welllington, the Mayor of Stepford in the remake of The Stepford Wives (2004) and appeared as Turner Lair in the drama film Around the Bend (2004).
The 62-year-old actor recently appeared as Rachel McAdams’ powerful political father in the Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn comedy Wedding Crashers (2005), found himself acting with James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet in John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes (2005) and was seen as reality TV producer Mark Heiss in director Tony Scott’s hyperkinetic, pseudo-biopic Domino (2005, starring Keira Knightley). Walken is set to play roles in the upcoming Fade to Black (2006), Click (2006, costarring Adam Sandler) and Man of the Year (2006).
- ShoWest: Supporting Actor of the Year, 2003
- BAFTA: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Catch Me If You Can, 2003
- Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Catch Me If You Can, 2003
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, Catch Me If You Can, 2003
- American Comedy: Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series, Saturday Night Live, 2001
- OBIE: Performance, “The Sea Gulf,” 1981
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actor, The Deer Hunter, 1978
- Oscar: Best Supporting Actor, The Deer Hunter, 1978
- OBIE: Performance,” Kid Champion” (played title role), 1974-75
- Drama Desk: Outstanding Performance, “Lemon Sky,” 1970
- Theater World: “The Rose Tattoo” (New York City Center revival), 1967
- Clarence Derwent: “The Lion in Winter,” 1966