Walken is a prolific actor who has spent more than 50 years on stage and screen. He has appeared in over 100 movie and television roles, including The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, At Close Range, King of New York, Batman Returns, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, The Funeral, and Catch Me If You Can, and in TV's Kojak and The Naked City. Walken gained a cult following in the 1990s as the Archangel Gabriel in the first three The Prophecy movies, as well as his frequent guest-host appearances on Saturday Night Live. In the United States, films featuring Walken have grossed over $1.8 billion. He has also played the main role in the Shakespeare plays Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Coriolanus. His most famous film roles were Nikanor "Nick" Chevotarevich in The Deer Hunter and in Pulp Fiction, as Captain Koons, a Vietnam War veteran, which has since become a pop culture icon, despite his appearance being less than ten minutes at length.
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 University on Long Island, but did not graduate. Walken initially trained as a dancer in musical theatre before moving on to dramatic roles in theatre and then film.
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 theatre. 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 Walken."
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 Pennsylvania 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.
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. He also played the leading role of Whitley Strieber in 1989's Communion, an autobiographical film written by Streiber that was based on his claims that he and his family were subject to alien abductions.
In Biloxi Blues, Walken convincingly played an eccentric drill Sargeant known for his stinging sarcasm and sharp wit, not dissimilar to his real life talents.
King of New York, directed by Abel Ferrara, stars Walken as ruthless New York City 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.
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 predominant 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 a cameo appearance in the film Mousehunt. He also appeared in the drama/thriller film Suicide Kings which also filled with suspense and humor.
In 1999, Walken played Calvin Webber in the romantic comedy Blast from the Past. Webber is a brilliant but eccentric Cal Tech 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 three music videos in the 1990s. His first video role was as the Angel of Death in Madonna's 1993 "Bad Girl"; the second appearance was in Skid Row's "Breakin' Down" video and his third was in Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice video.
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 UK music TV channel VH1—won Best Video of All Time in April 2002. 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 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 Bears and in two 2003 movies, Gigli and Kangaroo Jack. Walken also starred in an Adam Sandler film, "Envy" in which he plays J-Man, a crazy guy who helps Jack Black's character.
Most recently, he played the role of Morty, a sympathetic inventor who's more than meets the eye in the comedy 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 is currently in the movie Five Dollars a Day, in which he plays a con man proud of living like a king on $5 a day. He recently completed filming on The Lonely Maiden, a comedy costarring Morgan Freeman, about security guards in an art museum.
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.
He is one of the most frequently impersonated actors in Hollywood. Notable Walken impressionists include Johnny Depp, Jake Gyllenhaal, Eddie Izzard, Jay Mohr, Kevin Pollak, and Kevin Spacey. He is also frequently referenced in various other works of pop culture, such as in the Fountains of Wayne song "Hackensack." Walken remains one of the most popular portrayers of villains among film fans, with a page dedicated entirely to him on the movievillains.com website. MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch aired a match between Walken and Gary Oldman to determine who was the greatest cinematic villain. On February 15, 2008, he accepted Harvard's award as Hasty Pudding Man of the Year.
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 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.
In another appearance, 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, an honor usually reserved only for SNL cast members.
In some appearances, he has performed in "The Continental," a recurring sketch in which Walken is a "suave ladies' man" who in reality can't say or 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.
The site, Walken2008.com, remains online.
Emails sent to the campaign are posted at Dear Christopher Walken