PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Actor Christopher Walken attends 8th Champs Elysees Film Festival : Day Five on June 22, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Foc Kan/WireImage)
Movies - TV
Christopher Walken Thinks Heaven's Gate Got More Hate Than It Deserved
Christopher Walken had recently won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in director Michael Cimino's last picture, "The Deer Hunter," when the two reunited for "Heaven's Gate." Even though the epic western was a box office dud and had generally unfavorable reviews when it was released, Walken constantly defends it.
When the movie was released in November 1980, the New York premiere screening was so disastrous that Cimino and United Artists had to cut over an hour of its runtime before releasing it wide in April 1981. Walken, ever the movie's champion, told The Hollywood Reporter in 2020 that he walked out of that screening thinking he had "watched a good movie."
In 2012, Walken told IndieWire that "Heaven's Gate" was "disproportionately beat up at the time, including by people in the business. I never understood that." To watch the movie now in its restored four-hour director's cut, it's easier to see the intention and majesty of Cimino's vision — one that was obscured by industry gossip in 1980.
Like many epics of its era, "Heaven's Gate" uses its milieu –- rendered lovingly in specific, eccentric detail –- as a means of exploring larger questions about America. In particular, it deals with the circumstances of European immigrants in the West, zeroing in on the punishing struggles and minimal rewards of their new lives.