Usually the themes for my blog posts gestate over a period of weeks or at least days, but a few days ago I was listening to a podcast that mentioned a scene from Annie Hall, and I felt compelled to watch it again. Fabulous.
Apologies: some of these clips take a while to load up. Please bear with it, they’re worth it…
And of course, Youtube offered me countless other clips of Christopher Walken. 20 minutes later, I had a list, and a tribute to a pretty unique personality.
Christopher Walken is a tremendous actor. To be fair, his filmography does include some fairly schlocky choices, but his performance as Nick in The Deer Hunter is greater than 99.9% of all actors could ever aspire to. Robert de Niro had the screen time, but he was the beating heart of the story, the town’s loss that needed to be regained, the humanity that was destroyed by war.
To use a sporting analogy, he’s often more of ‘an impact player’, taking a supporting role but usually stealing the show: Sleepy Hollow, Catch Me If You Can, True Romance and ‘the watch scene’ from Pulp Fiction…
When he leads or carries a film, it’s his performance that is the highlight in perhaps a flawed production, such as in King of New York or The Dead Zone, where he dominates the film with his presence, and his performance often enables us to ‘forgive’ other elements that aren’t as successful.
He’s spawned numerous imitators – not least Kevin Spacey on Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio Show – thanks to his unconventional style of speech and rhythmic delivery, but what I really like about him is the ability to be utterly convincing as a vulnerable lost soul (Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter), a psychopath (King of New York) and in comedic persona. He was even to focus of a hoax that he was going to run for President… If you’ve not seen his appearances on Saturday Night Live, you’re in for a treat here.
He also recently made a fantastic appearance on Jonathan Ross’ chat show, reading Lady Gaga song lyrics (seriously)…
And then, even allowing for his dramatic range and comedic talents, he goes yet further with this brilliant performance in the video for Fatboy Slim’s ‘Weapon of Choice’. Is there anything the man can’t do?
This is proper dancing (directed by Spike Jonze, lately of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’). Tom Cruise’s cameo comic routine in Tropic Thunder is a pale imitation. I’d wager that most of Hollywood wishes they were half as cool as Chistopher Walken: I know I do.