“Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.” - Duane Hall, Annie Hall
This will, forever, be my idea of a young Christopher Walken. Woody Allen makes a joke of it, of course, because that’s how he does, but the way Walken plays it makes it creepy to the point that even Mr. Woody can’t fully rebound wit his witticism. Even though this was not the first movie I’d ever seen him in -- for a minute I didn’t even recognize him, until his spectacular lilting speech had a chance to unfold -- I still think of this as his first example of his future self.
Christopher Walken occupies a large part of my sense of popular culture. The man is everywhere. It’s apparently a thing, I learned recently, that he only turns down a role in a movie when the scheduling is truly inconvenient. He views everything as a learning process, a true egalitarian. That way he shows up in “Balls of Fury” with the same energy as he does in “Pulp Fiction,” He is the epitome of craft through practice, like a doctor, but it still doesn’t interfere with his forays into “art.”
And did I mention he’s a dancer? Weapon of Choice, by Fatboy Slim, remains one of my favorite music videos of all time, along with “Drop” by the Pharcyde, both of which were directed by Spike Jonze. As you will see if you choose to click the play button, Walken appears as a weary business traveller and then proceeds to dance, again lilting in reflection of his speech. I know Jonze should be credited with much of the success of this video, but Walken works it, bringing all of his seriousness into this essentially goofy endeavor. The man is fly.
Today is Chris Walken’s birthday. I know exactly how to celebrate: More Cowbell.