Meetup.com isn’t quite the Don Juan of Internet dating sites, but it does bring lonely people together in cyberspace. And in a world where everybody seems to be trying to make a connection—on any level—most would count their blessings, log on, get off and call it a day. But the site stands out for another—and truly bizarre—reason. It’s a place where a gaggle of Christopher Walken fans from 12 cities, in six different countries, including São Paulo, Brazil, meet online, arrange get-togethers and then later meet in person to exclusively discuss their admiration for the Oscar-winning actor whose celebrity keeps soaring with every quirky role he takes on.
It’s not every day Walken hears this sort of information. It takes the 61-year-old gray-haired actor at least 10 seconds to process it—in silence. Then his trademark eyes open wide and he asks whether these Walkenites might meet up for sex, too.
The consensus is that we’d have to actually attend one of these Walken outings to verify if sex is included. In the meantime, there’s plenty of other issues to talk about, namely, Walken’s latest role as an emotionally wounded convict son/father in Around the Bend, a surprisingly appealing film that co-stars Michael Caine and Josh Lucas. The three-generational yarn chronicles the unexpected return of Turner (Walken) and how his littered past still affects both his father (Caine) and the son (Lucas) he abandoned. Around is also a rarity. It’s one of the few films to come along in a decade to fully delve into the male psyche and tap into the emotions of—get ready—men. Father-son, son-father, grandfather-grandson—some rich material is explored here to winning ends. The film, which morphs into a quasi Terms of Endearment comedy-drama, is also able to pontificate on the subject of forgiveness without making the audience feel as if forgiveness is being pontificated on.
Walken breezed through San Francisco recently on a press tour of the film. GT caught up with the actor for a whirlwind Q&A.
Q: What criteria do you have in deciding projects?
A: I don’t. I try to keep working. I like to work. There’s not many other things I like to do. Also, subconsciously, I try to keep some variety so I don’t always do the same thing. You know, like, Around the Bend and The Country Bears. People criticized The Country Bears, but I thought it was great. Did you see it? Didn’t you like the scene where I got the dart gun and chased them all into a cave?
Q: That worked. Jordan Roberts says that you are both enigmatic and mysterious; that you ask the audience to come toward you. Do you feel that way?
A: I’m not mysterious to myself. My background is not as an actor. I wasn’t trained as an actor. It was musical comedy theater, which is like Elizabethan theater. It’s not like modern theater. It’s inclusive of the audience; as if the audience was part of the scene. And I was raised that way. I would do a show, talk to whomever I was with on stage; try to talk to the audience. I think I carried that into my movie acting. It’s just an instinct to include the audience. I think that’s why I’ve gotten away with playing villains over and over. You see me play a villain; you know that I am very aware that I am in a movie. I think that’s my own unique thing.
Q: Are you drawn to psychological characters or are they drawn to you?
A: I’m not. The way my movie career got started—the first time I got noticed was in Annie Hall. I was playing the suicidal driver and right after that, the next year, I was in The Deer Hunter—big movie, where I shoot myself in the head. So I think early on I might have gotten the ball rolling with guys who have something wrong with them.
Q: Do you like playing those parts?
A: Most actors don’t work and most, most when they do, they work sometimes. If you are a movie actor and they want you for any reason, that’s good news. So if they want me to play villains, that’s absolutely fine. Otherwise I’d have to stay home.
Q: You came up the ranks during the ’70s, during a period of great filmmaking. Do friends come up to you and say, what happened to filmmaking?
A: Movies are an evolving thing. You hear about the Golden Age; Fred Estaire was the Golden Age … watching Jimmy Cagney or a Bogart movie. But frankly, I don’t know how you can have a Golden Age with an industry that is less than 100 years old. You’re talking about an art form that is as old as a lot of people’s grandfathers. The movie business is an absolute baby right now.
Q: So, where do you see it growing to?
A: Well, it will have to do with the way movies are going to be made—it’s going to change. It already has. You know, when you think about it, movies are still being made the way they were made when D.W. Griffith was making movies … the whole science of making movies is still pretty much the way it started. Now they have digital, but obviously there are ways to make movies that nobody has ever dreamed of … holograms would be fun. When I was a kid, I used to do theater in the round … and I think that’s what movies will be too.
Q: Why do you think fathers and sons, traditionally, have so much trouble expressing emotions and communicating?
A: I don’t know if there is that man thing, but I am sure it’s something that goes back to the forest. And there is that poem, the child is the father of the man. It’s the whole chicken and the egg thing. I mean, you are your own father and you are your own son in a way. When I did Catch Me If You Can, they combed my hair flat, they gave me an overcoat and a hat and I looked in the mirror and I saw my father. It was scary how much I was my father. He had the same coat; he had the same hat. I think a lot of men deal with that. You get up one day, you look in the mirror and you see your father. I had a good relationship with my father. My father died recently, but he was almost 100 years old. And he was a baker and went to his bakery seven days a week. He loved his bakery … and I think I got a lot of things from him. I do love to go to work just like he did. Certainly this movie, my relationship with my father; my relationship with my kid, is far more complicated, but I am playing a guy whom things haven’t worked out very well for. My life worked out beautifully, but this guy has a hard time. A lot of it, his own making. He’s made a lot of mistakes. That was a big issue [in the film]—how that last [scene] happens, where I tell [Josh Lucas’s character] what I did to him. We kept talking about it: what are you going to say? how are you going to explain doing a thing like that? That was the problem. We finally decided there was no answer.
Q: What do you love most about acting?
A: I’ve tried to do other things. I’ve tried to do this and that. I was never any good at it. I am very very lucky that I am an actor. I don’t have a lot of education. I would not qualify for most professional things.
Q: You were going to be in dance originally, right?
A: I was in dance. But, you know, a dancer is like an athlete. Sooner or later you have to hang it up. And so, acting is great.
Q: So, it’s in your blood?
A: Yeah, but it’s also something where they don’t say to you, OK, you’re 60-whatever-it-is, here’s your watch, go home.
Q: … so how do you process that information about meetup.com? That a group of people in São Paulo, Brazil, actually get together to talk about—you?
A: Well honestly, I didn’t know that. The Internet, I missed it. I don’t have a computer. I could not get past turning it on. I know I have a fan club in America. Twice a year, they send me a questionnaire and I fill it out. But I can just see these people getting together and having a beer. Or better yet, it would be great to find out when the meeting is and fly down there and walk in with a six pack and say, ‘Who wants sex? Let’s party!’
Read more at gregarcher.com.