Christopher Walken is an Oscar winner, an ex-dancer, a six time host of TV’s Saturday Night Live, and Hollywood’s favourite bad guy. But in the new romantic comedy Wedding Crashers, the veteran actor shows off his softer side, as a political whose daughters become involved with two wedding crashers. As Walken himself admits, he’s not the obvious choice for this. He talked to Garth Franklin.
Question: You mentioned that you were floored when you were offered this because you normally play the asshole. True?
Walken: It was different to play the father and a good guy and the Secretary of the Treasury.
Question: What do you think they saw in you that made them want to hire you?
Walken: I think just because it was unexpected maybe, it was different.
Question: Do you enjoy this kind of comedy?
Walken: Sure, and especially since I’ve done all the villains and stuff, it’s a nice change.
Question: How about the football thing, how tough was it to get in shape and so forth?
Walken: That’s the magic of the movies. I can’t play any sports. When I throw a ball it goes backwards. I know, it looks like I can do it, but that’s the cameras.
Question: Aren’t you a dancer?
Walken: I can dance, but that’s not the same thing. I can’t throw a ball. I don’t know anything.
Question: What was it like working with Owen and Vince and the rest of the cast?
Walken: It’s a great cast. Those two guys are great by themselves, but also together. They are a great combination, I think. They are so good and also they are so different physically and personalities. You could also see, just on the set, that they like each other and that they were having fun together, and that’s always good.
Question: How do you feel when other actors imitate you, like Brad Cooper?
Walken: Does he do that? He didn’t do it on the set. You are right though a lot of people do that. I have a friend who does me on his answering machine. You call up and hear him doing my voice.
Question: What is it like with guys like Jay Mohr doing you?
Walken: He does it good. I did a movie with Jay Mohr. He knew my lines and he would do me doing my lines and I said to him, ‘Give me a break.’
Question: Is that flattering?
Walken: It is flattering, yes. It’s nice. I don’t know why they do that, but I guess I have a particular way of speaking. I come from a certain area of Queens, NY and everybody talks like that. To me if I meet friends I had when I was a kid then everybody talks like me.
Question: Do you like Saturday Night Live and will you do it again?
Walken: Sure, I love doing it. I’ve done 6 and maybe that’s enough.
Question: What is your favorite sketch you’ve done on SNL?
Walken: Oh, many many. I was in some scenes with Will Farrell. I love him he’s so funny.
Question: What about the one that everyone knows you for?
Walken: What, The Continental? That one and Cow Bell. That was with Will Ferrell. Did you ever see the one I did with him called Lovers? It’s funny. It’s these guys who talk about love.
Question: Is that something you do? Sit around and talk about love?
Walken: No, it’s funny, you should see it. It’s so stupid.
Question: Were you surprised that Will turned up in this movie?
Walken: Yeah. He was hilarious.
Question: Which other comics make you laugh?
Walken: I love to watch comic actors.
Question: If you had to choose comedy, drama, or thriller, which would it be?
Walken: I love comedies. And I love musicals. If I go to the theater I almost always go to a musical.
Question: With musicals back in vogue, would you like to do a musical film?
Walken: I don’t know, are they back in vogue? They are so expensive to make. If I was a movie actor 50 years ago I probably would have made a lot of musicals. They make them of course, like Chicago and Moulin Rouge, but they are expensive and difficult. I’ve done some like Pennies From Heaven. But I think also television came and MTV music videos satisfied a big part of that appetite, these days.
Question: Is there a genre now that you’d like to do that you don’t get a chance to do?
Walken: No, I just like to keep making movies and try to be monotonous to the audience and do something different.
Question: Try to get rid of the bad guy?
Walken: A little bit, yeah. Not an image. I don’t think anybody really thinks of me as a bad guy, but I’ve played so many of those parts that it’s good to surprise the audience a little bit.
Question: Is there anyone else you’d like to work with, but haven’t?
Walken: Yeah, everybody. All the obvious people. I’ve never made a movie with Martin Scorsese. I would love to do that.
Question: What are you working on at the moment?
Walken: I’m going to be in a movie this summer with Adam Sandler called Click.
Question: Who do you play in that?
Walken: It’s very hard to talk about before you make it. I see a movie that I’m in and I’m always surprised what it is. I play a guy who is watching Adam.
Question: Had you met Adam Sandler before?
Walken: I did SNL with him.
Question: How would you describe him?
Walken: He’s wonderful. When I worked with him first he was one of the regulars on SNL. And now, you know, he’s huge.
Question: Did you ever hope to become a professional dancer?
Walken: I thought I would be, sure. I thought that I would spend my life in the theater doing musicals. Dancers are like athletes. You get older and you can’t do that so a lot of them become choreographers or whatever. I got a job as an actor, when I was a dancer, then I got another job as an actor, you know?
Question: How did the dancing thing start?
Walken: When I was a kid in NYC it was very typical to send your kids to dancing school. I don’t think that’s true anymore, but boys would go to dancing school. Tap, not ballet. That was a very middle class thing to do.
Question: Why do you still love acting so much?
Walken: It’s been very good to me.
Question: Do you still have the same passion for it?
Walken: Sure. It’s all I do. I don’t do anything else.
Question: Was it nice being around the DC area while shooting?
Walken: For me it was only for two days. I was born in NYC and spent every day of my life for a long time and I hardly ever left. At some point I had the chance to move and now I don’t like to be in big cities much. I don’t like traffic. I don’t like to drive, I don’t drive. Where I live is very quiet. It’s better.
Question: How long have you been married?
Walken: Almost 40 years.
Question: Wow, do you remember your wedding?
Walken: I remember I was very nervous.
Question: Did you ever crash a wedding?
Walken: No. When I was a kid I used to crash parties, I guess. But a wedding is different. You have to be prepared. You have to be dressed. You have to know some facts in case they catch you.
Question: What is the secret of a long and healthy marriage?
Walken: The older I get the more I think that everything in your life is luck. Everything is luck…and showing up on time. If you show up on time a lot of good things happen. Like this morning, they said ’10:00 be on the 15th floor,’ so that’s what I do. It sounds silly, but it’s a basic thing. It goes for everything. If you say ‘call me at noon’ then if you are there at noon, it makes a difference. Both my parents are from Europe and my father in particular, my father was hardest working person I ever knew and he was always on time.
Question: So is that where your work ethic comes from?
Walken: I think so, my father. He was a baker, from Germany.
Question: Did your parents influence your slow comedic timing?
Walken: Sure, my mother in particular. My mother is very funny. I think she would have been a good actress. She was a housewife, but she was very glamorous. She was good looking and I think she always loved show business. She was a little bit flamboyant. She was from Scotland.
Question: Did you ever bring her into any of your movies, or want to?
Walken: No, I never did.
Question: Is there something you think she would have enjoyed?
Question: Did you discuss being Scottish with the actresses who played your daughters?
Walken: I thought Isla was Australian, but it never came up with either of them.
Question: What was working with Rachel McAdams like?
Walken: It’s great. She’s beautiful and a terrific actress. Very nice.
Question: Which young actors do you think might be big in the future?
Walken: I think there is probably more good actors now than I ever remember.
Question: Do they all turn up on time?
Walken: Very important.
Question: Is there a common thread among the better directors you’ve worked with?
Walken: No, everybody is different, but the one thing that all good directors do is they are very clear and careful about the casting. If you take an actor and put them in an interesting context sometimes something happens that you never expected. Good directors always know how to put this actor with this actor with this actor. It’s like cooking, you know? Sometimes that makes the actor better than they ever would be before. If you see a familiar actor do something different, it’s always fascinating.
Question: Is there an actor you’ve worked with you feel has made you a better actor?
Walken: All of them. Good actors make good actors better.
Question: Have you ever been surprised by your own casting?
Walken: Sure. Obvious things. I think when I got cast in Catch Me If You Can, that was an interesting way to use me. I was good in that because it was also different.
Question: Have you shot anything since this movie that has yet to come out?
Question: Yeah. I did John Turturro’s movie called Romance and Cigarettes, which is a musical. I sing and I dance. I haven’t seen it yet. I sing Tom Jones’ song Delilah to a woman who doesn’t care about me. I lip synch to Tom Jones. I can’t sing.