New Yorker of the Day, Christopher Walken Turns 77!
Academy Award-winning actor Christopher Walken is known for his extreme wide variety of screen roles, from his Academy Award winning performance in ‘The Deer Hunter’, to ‘A View to a Kill’ to ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Peter Pan.’ He has hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ seven times, turning in some memorable performances. Besides being an actor, he is also a singer, comedian, director, producer, screenwriter, and dancer, who has appeared in more than 100 films and television programs.
Walken was born in Queens in 1943. A performer since the age of three, Walken started out as a dancer, taking lessons as a child. "It was very typical for people—and I mean working-class people—to send their kids to dancing school. You'd learn ballet, tap, acrobatics, usually you'd even learn to sing a song," he later explained to Interview magazine.
The son of a baker, Walken would often leave his Astoria neighborhood and head to Manhattan with his brothers. There they would hang out at Rockefeller Center in where many of the television shows were shot. Sometimes they landed work as extras to make some pocket money. "They used a lot of kids more or less as furniture," Walken later told Entertainment Weekly. At the age of 10, he got a chance to work with comedian Jerry Lewis as an extra in a television skit.
Walken attended the famed Professional Children's School in Manhattan’s West Side, geared toward students in the performing arts. Around the age of 18, he started working in theater, first landing roles in musicals because of his earlier studies.
Walken began working in the theater in his late teens, and by the early 1970s he had begun working in film. His breakthrough part came with Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), and he went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1978's The Deer Hunter. He plays a young Pennsylvania steelworker who is emotionally destroyed by the Vietnam War. To help achieve his character's gaunt appearance before the third act, Walken consumed only bananas, water, and rice for a week.
In 1990, he starred in King of New York, a crime drama co-starring Laurence Fishburne, with Walken playing a freed drug kingpin who plots to give his ill-gotten gains to build a hospital for the poor. In 1991, he gained his first Emmy Award nomination for his work on Sarah, Plain and Tall. He then turned in a memorable performance as an evil businessman in Batman Returns (1992), opposite Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Later films include True Romance (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994), Antz (1998), Vendetta (1999), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Joe Dirt (2001), Catch Me If You Can (Oscar nomination, 2002), Hairspray (2007), Seven Psychopaths (2012), the first three Prophecy films, The Jungle Book (2016), and Irreplaceable You (2018).
Christopher Walken married his wife Georgianne in 1969, and the two are still married to this day, makiing their union one of the longest lasting in Hollywood history. A casting director between 1990 and 2007, Georgianne has worked with her husband on two projects, 1983’s Brainstorm and 1996’s Basquiat. They have no children and reside in Connecticut close to New York City.
Sources for this post: biography.com; cinemablend.com; wikipedia. Photo credit, Walken at age 75, SUSSANA SAEZ, USA Today.