Christopher Walken discusses hair products and falling in love with John Travolta
By now, everyone is familiar with Christopher Walken's appearance in the Fatboy Slim video Weapon of Choice. What many of you might not know is that Walken is a classically trained dancer with a background in Broadway and musical comedy. In Hairspray, he gets a chance to put his amazing skills to use.
Walken plays Wilbur Turnblad in the film, a role originated by Jerry Stiller in the 1988 John Waters original. Wilbur is the loving father of Nicky Turnblad, an energetic teenager with weight issues. He is also the husband of Edna Turnblad, a happily obese John Travolta in a fat suit.
We recently sat down with Walken to talk about his experiences on the set of Hairspray. Here is what the iconic cult figure had to say about it:
Christopher Walken: Thank you.
Did you have to think twice about doing this role at all?
Christopher Walken: No. No. They don't make many movie musicals these days. So, to be in one is pretty rare.
You sure have a lot of energy in these dance sequences.
Christopher Walken: I do. That's what I did when I was a kid. It comes back. I was a show dancer.
Did you think you'd ever be kissing John Travolta?
Christopher Walken: I don't think we actually kiss. Almost. A little bit.
It was a little peck on the cheek. It was sweet.
Christopher Walken: They cut the kiss because it turned into an X-rated scene. We had to have a PG.
Were you feeling up the costume, or what?
Christopher Walken: (Laughs hysterically for a minute) No. It was a pleasure. When John and I worked together, we rehearsed a long time on that dance. And he was always John. And he was very fit. He's playing this big woman, I wondered, "Why do you have to be so fit?" But then when we were shooting, I understood. This was a huge thing, this costume. And he was in high heels. It was like carrying a mattress. He had to be very strong underneath that. When I saw him in it, I was awe struck. But a few minutes later, when I looked at him again, it was just John under there. I never thought of him as Edna. I just thought of us as Chris and John. For a moment I was shocked. When he walked on, and there were all the people in the movie. It was really something. But after five or ten minutes, it was just John.
Were you a little nervous about taking this part?
Christopher Walken: I don't think so. No. I was fine. I hear that John was the one that initiated me being in the film. But once they asked me, I was fine with it.
Adam, the director, said there was a little reluctance on New Line's part.
Christopher Walken: Maybe with New Line. The producer may have hesitated. But I didn't. The producer always hesitates.
Did you ever feel like a victim of typecasting?
Christopher Walken: No. I don't feel typecast. Typecasting is better than no casting. (Laughs)
How do you feel about working with all these new, young actors?
Christopher Walken: It was amazing. The only young person I was really with was Nicky Blonsky. When I saw the film, I thought they were all fantastic. Amazing. They were wonderful. Elijah Kelly was pretty good, huh?
Have you see the finished film?
Christopher Walken: I didn't see what you saw. I don't think so. The version I saw was longer. And there was no audience. When I saw it, there were three people there. I have to go see it with an audience.
Do you have product in your hair, or do you just have naturally perfect hair?
Christopher Walken: I use hairspray. (Laughs)
Did you have to go through a lot of rehearsals on this movie?
Christopher Walken: We rehearsed, sure. Then again, we shot it very fast. I'm glad you guys liked it. I've worked with Michelle Pfeiffer before. I love her. But I had no idea that she could sing like that. That was really her. She can sing.
How did you and Travolta get so close?
Christopher Walken: We were together rehearsing, and I like him very much. I think we just like each other. That's just lucky. We weren't pals. I didn't know him. But when we would work, we got along very good. I think you can see that.
What do you think it is about your personality that resonates with this younger crowd?
Christopher Walken: Its great to hear that, but I'm not sure what it is. There are a few things that I did. I remember when I did Batman Returns. That was a little while ago, but I was with my wife in Italy. And we were walking up this very dusty road in a small town. This local woman with a young boy was coming in the opposite direction. And as we went by...I played Max Shreck...And as we passed, the woman says, "Bonjurno!" The little boy looks up at me and says, "Max!" So, I don't know. That's nice, you know. Also, the Fatboy Slim video. I think a lot of young people saw that. Saturday Night Live. A lot of young people watch that.
How is it that every impressionist wants to do you?
Christopher Walken: That is true. I must be easy to do.
Who is your favorite?
Christopher Walken: There's Spacey. Jay Mohr. A lot of people. People who are not actors like to come up to me and do it.
Does that ever bother you?
Christopher Walken: No, it doesn't. It's good. I don't know why. But its very interesting, isn't it?
What character would you like to do in the future?
Christopher Walken: In this, I play a father and a husband. A good guy. I would like to play more of those.
How did you get involved in Balls of Fury? Are you a big Ping-Pong player?
Christopher Walken: No. It just seemed like something I wanted to do. The actual script, itself, when you read it, was funny.
Do you think it will be funny?
Christopher Walken: I don't know. I haven't seen it. The trailers? I don't understand why people pay so much attention to the trailers. I have never known anything about a movie from watching the trailer. It doesn't do anything. I don't understand what it is about them.
Are we ever going to see your memoirs?
Christopher Walken: I would write my memoirs, but I can't remember anything. I have been asked to write my memories, actually. I feel that I am too young to do that. I could get my notes together. The thing about memoirs is that you can't write them without talking about people. That's the only hitch.
So, you're going to wait until you retire?
Christopher Walken: Or have my papers ready to go in a safe box until I have gone into the great beyond. Then, you can read my memoirs. If I'm not in the great beyond, people will kill me anyway.
What do you do for fun when you're not acting?
Christopher Walken: What do I do for fun? This, here is okay. I stay home a lot. I live in a nice place with trees. I like to stay there.
Do you like doing comedies better than the dramas?
Christopher Walken: I think all stories are good. I don't think it's a bad idea to approach any story like a comedy. Some stories are serious, but they are serious all by themselves. I don't have to make it serious.
Is there anything you'd do over if you could do it over?
Christopher Walken: I wouldn't have eaten that last slice of pizza...Sorry. I don't know. Actually, they say that if you do one little thing differently, everything changes. You have to be careful. I wouldn't do anything different.
Do you think you picked the right profession?
Christopher Walken: Oh, definitely.
Did you know all along that this is what you wanted to be doing?
Christopher Walken: I did. Because I was already there and doing it. I also knew that there was nothing else I could do.
Do you still feel like that, looking back?
Christopher Walken: Yes. Oh, yes. If I did anything else, it wouldn't be as good to me as this.
Are there any people you've never worked with that you would love to work with?
Christopher Walken: Sure. People I have never worked with. Martin Scorsese. Sydney Pollock. Bertolucci. Lots of people.
How have you managed never to work with Scorsese?
Christopher Walken: I almost worked with him once. Years ago, I was going to be in the The Last Temptation of Christ. But way back, in the early 80s, I was going to do that and they cancelled it. Then they were going to do it again, and they cancelled it again. By the time they made it, I was gone. But I was with him for some time. Talking, and getting ready for the film. It was fascinating. We looked at paintings a lot.
Has he talked to you at all about the film Silence?
Christopher Walken: No, he didn't call me yet.
Hairspray opens on July 22nd, 2007,