Thursday, June 30, 2005

Christopher Walken: The King of New York Speaks (Q&A)















A couple of weeks ago I worked the junket for the upcoming feature Wedding Crashers and got a little face time with the actors starring in the flick (Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken). While I've already posted a Q&A with Vaughn below, I thought that the session with Walken unveiled a side that I hadn't seen before. I've used a bit of this for another publication but I thought it'd be cool to check out the real flow of what went down for all of the C.W. fans that I know are out there. When dude walked into the room I half expected him to pull out a wristwatch (like he did in Pulp Fiction) but that didn't quite happen...There's an old colloquialism that goes "avoid meeting your heroes at all costs -- they're never as interesting to meet in the flesh as you'd imagined they'd be." I walked into the roundtable at the Four Seasons bearing the latter in mind because, you never know, yo...See for yourself.

Q: You ever wonder if this movie's going to inspire others to crash weddings after it comes out?


Walken: No, I guess that would be great. (laughs) I think that weddings have been crashed, probably, since the beginning of time -- cavemen crashed parties. You go to meet girls. It makes sense. I've never crashed a wedding -- when I was a kid, of course, I crashed parties. Crashing weddings is difficult, though, because you have to have the clothes, the suit. You have to have information in case somebody catches you -- you have to know some names and things.


Q: Because you carry automatic gravitas with you whenever you're playing a role, how difficult or easy was it to play against somebody like Vince Vaughn who is so characteristically dervish-like and manic in his portrayals onscreen?


Walken: That was great, you know, you take jobs to be with good actors and the director (David Dobkin) was terrific and also for me it was different. I've played a lot of villians and I've played dads and (in Wedding Crashers) I play a good guy, basically -- The Secretary of the Treasury. I've never had a job like that (laughs) to play somebody who's like one of our nation's leaders. They don't ever ask me to do that.


Q: You don't think it made you out to be an overbearing father or anything?


Walken: I don't know -- I never had kids -- but if I had beautiful daughters and the guy came over to the house, I would probably be watching him very carefully.


Q: Have you ever been to any wild or crazy weddings? Any anecdotes?


Walken: I've been to weddings -- the weddings weren't too crazy. What I do remember is that the food was terrible, always. (laughs) The thing about weddings is not to stay too long -- not to stay until everybody gets so wound up.


Q: Is that your rule?


Walken: Yeah: arrive early and leave early. My favorite wedding, remember the wedding in On the Waterfront? It's funny, huh? All those people punching each other. Beer, beer kegs -- kegs of beer, yeah.


Q: What was your role in Catch Me If You Can about? Was it something to remind people that you're very capable of doing other things.


Walken: Yeah, it was a great thing to be cast in it. When you're an actor you do a lot of the same thing -- it's great when somebody gets you to do something a little surprising.


Q: So when you read the Wedding Crashers script and your character turns to his daughter and goes "I just want you to be happy" was that one of those moments onscreen where you're doing something different?


Walken: Yes, absolutely. I don't get those parts in movies too much.


Q: Why do you think your voice fascinates people so much?


Walken: I don't know. I come from a certain part of New York City -- Queens -- and the trip is that that's the way people talk there.


Q: When did your realize that the "Christoher Walken impression" was becoming the Holy Grail of Community Theater?


Walken: I don't remember exactly when it happened but at some point people started doing that. It's nice, to me, it's nice. Sometimes, when people do it, I don't even know it but my wife says that there are certain people who do it better than others.


Q: Are you going to do Saturday Night Live again?


Walken: I don't know, I've done it six times -- maybe that's enough.


Q: I was reading in a bio somewhere that you spent a summer as a junior lion tamer in a circus -- is that true?


Walken: I did. When I was a kid I joined the circus.


Q: So you did the lion thing? That's true?


Walken: It is, I did -- it's not like you think. There was a guy, he had his own circus, his name was Carol Jacobs and he owned it -- it was a small thing he had and all. I joined that one summer and he had this idea that he wanted to have an act where his son would come on dressed just like him but he didn't have any kids. So, he put an ad out and I went and took it. I didn't get paid but it was such an interesting thing. I had an identical outfit as him -- the hat and everything -- and at the end, when he was finished with his lions, they'd all leave and they'd let in this one lion, her name was Sheba and really more like a dog, you know. Very nice and old, not too many teeth. She was very nice -- I mean you could pet this thing and she'd rub up against your leg like a housecat -- and she'd get on her box and I'd do my whip like this and she'd roar. That was it. (laughs)


Q: I didn't believe it when I read it so I had to ask you, yo.


Walken: Yeah, yeah. It wasn't anything like you'd think -- I mean it wasn't dangerous.


Q: You weren't sticking your head in it's mouth or anything, then?


Walken: No, nothing like that.


Q: You ever gotten a role solely predicated on your dancing skills besides that video?


Walken: Yeah, I done things like the movie Pennies from Heaven -- it was a musical.


Q: You've got another musical coming out, right?


Walken: John Turturro's movie: Romance and Cigarettes -- that's right, that's a musical.


Q: What do you think the biggest misconception is about you that you notice when you meet people or do you even notice that stuff?


Walken: I wouldn't know. I wouldn't know. I think, sometimes, when you're an actor people associate you with the parts you play.


Q: You think people are intimidated by you?


Walken: No, I don't think so but I think that when they see me in a movie, they expect me to do something...nasty or crazy or something. I've played a lot of villians and so when I show up and that's why you defy expectations sometimes and you're not that [person]. I think it would be interesting for me to play something really different like, you know, Father Knows Best -- you remember Father Knows Best don't you? I'd have sons and they'd say to me "oh dad, what do you think I should do?" And I'd say, "Well son...just try to do the right thing." (laughs) That'd be a good part. If I played a psychiatrist, maybe. I'd like to play a psychiatrist at some point.


Q: You make so many different types of movies -- which of your choices tend to make your agents nervous?


Walken: I don't make choices, really -- I think I just take what comes. People think actors make a lot of choices -- well maybe they do, I don't know.


Q: You're great at comedy, what makes you laugh as an audience?


Walken: Comedy is a mysterious thing. I don't know. What's funny? Very strange, some people are funny.


Q: Did Vince and Owen make you laugh?


Walken: Oh yeah, they are funny -- also, they're funny together. You know, they're a very good team. I wouldn't be surprised if they made more movies together, they have a Bob Hope/ Bing Crosby thing together.


Q: Would you ever go back to do more theater, perchance?


Walken: Theater? Being in the theater now is different...maybe it's because the tickets are so expensive. I remember one night I worked out and there's a guy sitting out there and he was videotaping the show... I did a play called The Dead when [a cell phone rang in the audience during the performance] and I went "Hold it while this guy takes his phonecall." Yeah! You know what I'm talking about. No matter where you sit now you get that. It really has changed life.


Q: You seem to get a lot of work. Do you just go from film to film, one after the other?


Walken: Yeah, if possible. You know, naturally, sometimes there's nothing going on.


Q: What do you do to kick back? What does Christopher Walken do to kick back?


Walken: You know actors have kick back time built in. There's a lot of kick back time.


Q: So what's in your trailer on a set?


Walken: While making a movie I try to save myself. I don't like to sit around and talk -- I like to be quiet.


Q: When you see yourself onscreen do you ever critique your performances or do you just go and watch the movie? If so, are you hard on yourself?


Walken: You can't be too hard on yourself. You can't be better than you [actually] are. I'm pretty realistic about that. Even when I don't like it much it's interesting because when you see yourself on film you see a lot. Whether you like it or not, you see a lot. One thing is most people don't ever get that opportunity -- I'm not talking about seeing yourself on video -- a lot of the time, the first thing that you see is "you better go on a diet" (laughs) or "can you
possibly talk without moving your eyebrows up and down?"


Q: Talk about the new film, Romance and Cigarettes.


Walken: It's got great actors in it. John Tuturro wrote it and it's a musical movie -- dancing and everything.


Q: What kind of music?


Walken: Well, in my case it's almost like karaoke -- I do a Tom Jones song. It's his voice but I'm lip-synching "Delilah."


Q: You lip-synched in Pennies from Heaven too, right?


Walken: Yeah, that's right. The song I did in Pennies from Heaven was a great song but most people had never heard it before.


Q: Jay Mohr has a story about when he met you and discussing whether you thought it was best to fly or have a tail. Was that a true story?


Walken: Yeah. I remember when I was on Saturday Night Live and said how great it would be if an actor had a tail because a tail is so expressive. You can tell everything, like with a cat. You can tell whether they're scared - when they bush it. If I was an actor and I had to be scared in a movie, all I'd have to do was bush my tail...I think if actors had tails you'd see through everything. (laughs)


Q: You have any favorite or interesting gadgets you're using these days? An iPod or any computer gizmos that you're into?


Walken: No. I don't have a computer. I don't have a cell phone. I don't have a wristwatch.


Q: Is there anything that you would've loved to have had as a kid that you didn't get?


Walken: A calculator because I remember when I applied once for a job in a department store -- it was after I got out of high school -- and they were hiring people at Christmas time. I applied and I failed the test because in those days you had to be able to make out a bill. And fast. I remember that I didn't get the job. But nowadays that couldn't possibly happen. Do they even teach kids anymore how to add and subtract?


Q: But your life would've been totally different now. You might've become a manager at Macy's or something so it's a good thing that you did fail back then.


Walken: Yeah, that's true.


Q: You know, it just dawned on me that both you and Jane (Seymour -- who plays his wife in Wedding Crashers) have played characters in James Bond movies.

Q: Just off the cuff, did anything ever come up about that in conversation while on the set for this movie?


Walken: Yeah, yeah. That's right. That's true -- she was in one and I did one too. I did the one with Grace Jones -- one of my favorite people -- she was so interesting. I miss her.


Wedding Crashers opens nationally in theaters on July 15th -- if you liked Old School or Animal House then this one's right up your alley...I had a couple of great laughs...a funny R-rated comedy is rare these days; go see it if you get the chance....Laters...

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