Monday Face/Off – Christopher Walken
Sarah (thinks Christopher Walken is a Hollywood parasite):
Christopher Walken should make like his last name and walk out of Hollywood for good. For some reason, he’s regarded as a universal treasure that you can forgive for starring in utter tripe because he’s Christopher Walken. Nicolas Cage doesn’t get a break for that sort of behaviour, so why should Walken get away with it? If this guy is ever in a brilliant film (such as A Late Quartet which was utterly lovely), it will be brilliant IN SPITE of him and not because of. He says yes to every gig that comes his way, never actively seeking out good projects. It’s like he doesn’t want to be taken seriously. And let us never, EVER forget that he starred in both The Wedding Crashers and Click – two monumentally bad films that should never have seen the light of day. Walken proves repeatedly through his life choices that he is not an actor, but an instantly recognisable famous person who gets paid to be in films. Like Mike Tyson.
Kayleigh (used her arse as a jewellery box for years, just to be more like Walken):
I can’t believe we’re even having this debate. I just… I’m just baffled. Sarah? Sarah, have you ever SEEN a Christopher Walken film? He may star in some questionable movies, but you DO know what that means, right? It means we will always, no matter how bad the film, give us ONE good memory of it. Click? Bad film, but Christopher Walken was amazing. Stepford Wives? Bad film, but Christopher Walken was amazing. The Wedding Crashers? Bad film, but Christopher Walken was… you know what? I think you get it. This guy carried an uncomfortable hunk of WATCH up his ASS for two whole years. He made a (probably) very clever critique of horse racing when he did battle with Roger Moore’s James Bond in A View To A Kill. AND he was The King Of New York. So don’t give me any of your shizzle Sarah. This debate is over – Christopher Walken is an Academy Award winning actor who manages to juggle all film genres with dexterity and ease, never once bowing to the pressure of film snobbery and turning down a big blockbuster flick because it’s “too mainstream”. He’s a legend. He spits all over Nicolas Cage’s lacklustre career. He’s The Deer Hunter himself. Now get over it.
I’m not sure how sliding a watch betwixt your own buttocks makes you capable of acting. He gives a similar performance in pretty much every film – a gravelly-voiced mentally unhinged type with questionable morals and a weird hairline. Walken doesn’t fully give himself to any of his parts, he just turns up and says the lines. Is he trying to show off the fact that he’s actually learnt them? To be fair, it was easy for Walken to shine in Click. A stapler would give a fantastic performance opposite Adam Sandler. When he coupled with ACTUAL ACTORS though, he falls woefully short. Sorry to go back to A Late Quartet again, but Philip Seymour Hoffman basically made Walken his bitch in that movie. Okay, so he has an Oscar nomination and win to his name, but so do Three Six Mafia and they did this…
…so it doesn’t really matter. As for “juggling all film genres with dexterity and ease”, I think you’re mistaking that for NOT BEING ARSED. If he were any more chilled he’d be horizontal. There’s a reason why he was passed over for the role of Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, Kayleigh.
Woah my GAWD – did you just say Christopher Walken falls “woefully short” when coupled with “ACTUAL ACTORS”? What does that… what does that even mean? You know you’re talking absolute codswollop, right Sarah? Name any other actor that could appear on screen for under five minutes, talking almost directly to the camera in a fast-paced monologue, and utterly steal the show. Because that is EXACTLY what Walken does in Pulp Fiction. His “gold watch” bit-piece is one of the most lauded moments of that Tarantino flick – and for good reason. LET’S REMIND OURSELVES OF IT, SHALL WE?
Take a moment to enjoy this masterclass in acting, Sarah. Let the words wash over you. Feels good, doesn’t it? DOESN’T CHRISTOPHER WALKEN’S AMAZING DELIVERY, DEVOID OF BIG ACTION SEQUENCE OR BIG OHMYGOD REVEALS, FEEL GOOD? Turning up and saying his lines, as you put it, may not FEEL like a big deal – but it’s all about that delivery. That utterly smooth, utterly perfect delivery that Walken nails each and every single time. Bam.
There’s a reason people wanted Walken to run for presidential candidacy in the United States. There’s a reason Fat Boy Slim had Walken, a trained dancer, perform a mesmerising routine and take centre stage for Weapon Of Choice – the video is completely devoid of all other humans and simply sees Chris (yeah, I’m calling him Chris now) transforming from tired and disgruntled office worker to dancing and flying around an empty hotel to the music. It won six awards at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Six. Count them, Sarah. Do you think that would have been possible without our boy Walken? Of course it bloody wouldn’t. You know why? Walken’s a legend, that’s why.
I hardly think that MTV Video Music Awards actually count for anything in 2013 – they’re just a way for teenage girls to squee over One Direction and Justin Bieber while silently wishing they were Katy Perry. Would the Weapon of Choice video have been as good without him in it? Probably not. Let’s face it though, Walken (yes, I’m just going to refer to him as Walken) was probably the only famous person to agree to hover around an escalator for Fat Boy Slim. Yes, the video is a classic, and he’s an excellent dancer, so if he decided to buzz off to Broadway permanently I’d be happy with that. Or maybe he should start his own dance crew à la Ashley Banjo? Anything as long as it doesn’t involve acting.
As for being the best part of Pulp Fiction – did we actually watch the same film? You’re telling me that his entire banal monologue was better than Uma Thurman and John Travolta’s twist routine? Than Bruce Willis wielding a samurai sword? Than Samuel L. Jackson’s expletive-laden wallet or, indeed Samuel L. Jackson himself? I think you’d better watch it again, Kayleigh. I’ve got it on VHS. You can borrow it – actually sod it, you can HAVE it if you want. Just re-educate yourself.
I feel as though I should break down what I meant by ACTUAL ACTORS. It means people who can act, and Walken himself has said that he is not an actor. I QUOTE: “There’s a crucial difference between an actor and a performer. I’m essentially a performer. That’s where I came from. That’s what I know. That’s what I do.” Therefore by calling him an actor you are fundamentally WRONG. Even your beloved Chris would disagree with you.
I’m of the belief that citing Justin Bieber in an argument is just as bad as invoking Godwin’s Law – let’s leave the Nazis outta this one, okay?
To be honest Sarah, you know in your heart that you’re wrong, that you’re grasping at straws, that you’ve made a terrible mistake by heading into this argument. That’s why we’re sitting here dithering over what the differences are between an actor and a performer. That’s why you’re vomiting up pop culture comparisons like there’s no tomorrow (One Direction? Ashley Banjo? Yiesh!). And that’s why you refuse to acknowledge the fact that, yes, while Walken is an expert at delivering an epic monologue (ever seen his recitation of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face? Check it out – it’ll send shivers down your spine, I swear!), he’s also pretty outstanding when it comes to completely encompassing a character, finding out what makes them tick and committing to that performance wholeheartedly.
Let’s talk about that Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – yup, “actor” – one more time, shall we? In The Deer Hunter, our boy Walken is challenged to play a young soldier who has been emotionally destroyed by the Vietnamese war. Check out his last scene in the film…
Really? Not an actor? Not a great performer? REALLY?!
Look Kayleigh, you seem to take Walken more seriously than Walken does. Read any recent interview with him and you’ll see he is completely blasé about his work. He hates learning his lines for one thing, and finds it a “chore”. He does what he likes with his script, including ignoring all pauses and punctuation, thus showing complete disregard for his peers and colleagues. He doesn’t know you exist. He is unlikely to personally thank you for sticking up for him. He can’t hear you, Kayleigh – HE CAN’T HEAR YOU. Be honest with yourself and admit that he’s not all that. How can someone who was behind such an emotional performance as in The Deer Hunter, then go on to appear in this UTTER GARBAGE?
He looks dead behind the eyes here. He knows he’s messed up. You seriously cannot defend this sort of thing.
Ouch. I better get my ass to the local burns unit for THAT one, hadn’t I? Yiesh.
To be honest Sarah, I don’t really need to be best friends with the people I admire. I may WANT to be their best friends (Jennifer Lawrence, take note) but I can still sit back, look at their work and recognise it as excellent. Shakespeare’s 100% dead and decayed, has no idea I exist and I’m still able to go: “You know what guys? That Shakespeare – he knows a thing or two about this playwriting shizzle.” And you know what else? I don’t need someone to be dead serious about their craft for it to be amazing. Most artists do what they do because they love it. The best artists completely defy convention and create, rather than recreate. Christopher Walken is famed for his deadpan affect, sudden off-beat pauses, and strange speech rhythm – he made that his own, he has an instantly recognisable style and people everywhere will spend full hours of their lives trying to imitate it. So sure, yeah, he “does what he likes with his script”, but one can say the same about Vincent van Gogh and his paints. Those dabs of yellow paint may have gone against the artistic conventions of the time, but Sunflowers is, today, one of the most instantly recognised piece of artwork ever made. Doing something that ticks all the boxes can make you popular. Having the bravery and creativity to do something new, something different, something that goes against the rules, makes you AMAZING.
In short, I can defend this sort of thing and I will until the ends of time. I don’t do it to curry favour with Walken, to make him notice me (but, you know, two birds with one stone!) or to make him more serious than he really is; I do it because I think he’s an excellent actor / performer – and, whether he’s appearing in The Deer Hunter, Pulp Fiction or Wedding Crashers, that will never change. He can do funny, he can do deranged, he can poke fun at himself, he can do a mean dance routine and he can do emotionally taut monologues. Best of all? He does all this without ever sacrificing his own inimitable style. That’s the Walken way. And, if you carry on trying to make great actors conform to a narrow-minded list of “what makes a good actor” rules, you may just find that, one of these days, Chris will Walken over you.
You know what? You’re right. There’s actually no way of rebutting what you’ve said because it all makes absolute sense. Why don’t we go and get a drink and marvel over Chris? And Shakespeare if you like?
Sounds good to me! I’ll bring the biscuits.