Christopher Walken's Only Concern While Acting Is Keeping Himself Amused

Christopher Walken's place in Hollywood is hard to pin down. On one hand, he's a serious actor who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a traumatized war veteran in "Deer Hunter," and earned critical praise for his roles in "The Dead Zone," "True Romance," and an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in "Catch Me if You Can." Walken has serious acting chops, but he's arguably more famous for his "Eraserhead" hairstyle, New York accent, and dramatic pauses.

His unique way of speaking captures everyone's attention and has inspired many Hollywood stars to perfect their own impression of the veteran actor, which Walken admits he finds amusing. Despite being an Oscar-worthy actor, Walken doesn't take himself too seriously. During a 2022 interview with The New York Times, Walken admitted to sometimes playing characters in a peculiar or humorous manner for his own amusement.


After "Deer Hunter," Walken began portraying characters with a bizarre or strange edge. He took on the role of a bleach-blonde Bond villain named Maximillian Zorin in "A View to a Kill," a homicidal psychic in "The Dead Zone," and The Headless Horseman in "Sleepy Hollow," just to name a few. The actor played so many wacky characters that his mere presence in a movie signaled to the audience that the movie was going to be a bit strange, and screenwriters even fell prey to the assumptions. In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Walken revealed that his casting would often lead to disappointing changes:

"Quite often, I'll be sent a script for a movie, and I find that I like it, so I say I'll do it. But then they rewrite it for me. They make it quirky. Odd. I find that rather annoying. I call it Walkenising."

Being typecast is frustrating for any actor, but it's easy to see how it happens, especially with a guy like Walken, whose looks, style, personality, and voice are so uniquely his. Still, Walken sees himself as "a regular guy" who has a talent for playing weirdos, but a desire to occasionally mix it up and take on average joes. His work in the aforementioned movies, and 2015's "A Late Quartet," proves he's got the acting ability to do it, but audiences seem more drawn to his wacky characters.

Hollywood's tendency to rehash successful roles and storylines might be responsible for Walken's dilemma, but the actor's unique ways of keeping himself entertained in a role probably doesn't help.

'Are you looking at my hair?'

Walken might get the occasional itch to play Joe Schmoes, but his over-the-top performances and need for amusement often give even the blandest characters an eccentric edge. In the 1991 straight-to-video thriller "All-American Murder," Walken plays a detective who is trying to solve the murder of a college student. Compared to Walken's stranger roles, a cop is about as average as it gets, but Walken jazzed up the character with an exaggerated performance that included his signature speech patterns and tics. The movie is still awful, but Walken's portrayal of the character and comical delivery of awful dialogue makes watching the film fun instead of just painful. Walken took the role of a sarcastic, smart-ass, stereotypical detective and made him, dare I say it, quirky.

Walken admits that he doesn't remember anything about the movie, but that he often finds a humorous way to play characters to keep himself entertained:

"I remember making a movie once where they had me dye my hair this completely unnatural color [...] So in every scene I was in, whomever I was talking to, my subtext was 'What do you think of my hair?' No matter what I was talking about to anybody, I was thinking, 'What do you think of my hair? Are you looking at my hair? Isn't my hair horrible?' It colored everything that I did, and I ended up being rather amusing but nobody knew why except me. Sometimes I do things just to amuse myself."

Some classify Walken as a serious actor, while others write him off as a joke. Regardless of which side you identify with, it's impossible to deny that he has an intriguing and mysterious quality that has captured audiences' attention for four decades.