Christopher Walken is an artist who inspires me every single day. Now, I know you might be saying to yourself, “What?!” So here is why…
I admire Mr. Walken because he is so fully himself onstage or on camera. He does not apologize for who he is. He is whole-heartedly Christopher Walken (whatever that means at any given moment) whether you like it or not. He has said, “I try not to worry about things I can’t do anything about,” and I try to emulate that quote any time I get unnecessarily flustered or neurotic about something I cannot control. In any given process, if I am giving 100% of myself and not judging the eccentricities or quirks I bring to the table, I thrive. My most eccentric self is also my most creative. I think Christopher Walken has done a fabulous job of bringing his truth to the forefront of all his work.
An example of Chistopher Walken bringin his truth to his work is that he tries to work at least one dance move into every film that he is in. In my opinion, this is him trying to find a way to put a little bit of his soul into all of his work. I admire the hell out of that. I hope that I always take ownership of my work without being a selfish artist, and I think Walken found a beautiful way of doing this. Adding a tiny dance move that fits the needs of the script allows for creative agency while still serving the text.
His scene in True Romance with Dennis Hopper is still one of the best things I have ever seen. His ease and calm in the scene makes him terrifying. And then he says the words, “You’re a cantaloupe,” cracks up, and aims a gun at Dennis Hopper’s head. I admire his ability to have an audience laughing with ease one moment and then completely stunned in terror the next. This is the quality that I admire in the play Hand to God as well. Hand to God, like Christopher Walken, brings out our humanity in all forms possible. We laugh only to have gasoline poured into our open mouths. I believe that the grit and depth of human emotion is not accessible without hitting the humor of it all and, conversely, I believe that just hitting the humor causes us to turn off our analysis of the world. Christopher Walken is the epitome of this concept: he has a laughable, goofy, strange outer shell that holds the deepest depths of human experience. He gets to our heart because he makes us laugh first; we underestimate him. I think the most powerful actors and plays are the ones where it feels like nothing is happening and then suddenly we begin to feel. We consume the things we underestimate because they cause no foreseeable threat to our psyche when, in fact, those are the things that burrow in the deepest.
I know it seems ridiculous to pin all of this one Christopher Walken because it’s a much broader idea, but he encapsulates what I hope to do with my career as a theatre artist because he never ceases to interest and surprise me—to make me laugh a second before I cry. My favorite quote of his is, “At best, life is completely unpredictable,” and I think the same is true of art.
ALSO…look at that face.