Christopher Walken’s 10 Most Insane Performances


When we heard that there was a film in the pipeline called Seven Psychopaths, we figured there was a pretty good chance Christopher Walken was somehow involved — and yep, sure enough, co-starring alongside Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson is our Mr. Walken, doing the slightly-restrained variation on the bananas weirdo screen persona we’ve all come to know and love. In celebration of a new bit of insanity from the man, we’ve selected what we believe to be his ten nuttiest performances — not his best, mind you, but his craziest. And even that list was hard to whittle down, so add your own favorites in the comments.

Annie Hall THE ROLE: Duane, brother of the title character. THE WALKEN TOUCH: Walken invests this early role (one of his first) with a quiet, creepy, haunted quality — in contrast to much of his later, more operatic crazy-work. This is just as unnerving, though. KEY LINE: “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.” (Alvy’s response: “Right. Well, I have to — I have to go now, Duane, because I, I’m due back on the planet Earth.”)

Batman Returns THE ROLE: Max Shreck, evil Gotham City businessman and political mover/shaker THE WALKEN TOUCH: To change the look of his Batman sequel, director Tim Burton covered Gotham City in snow and ice. Walken appears to have taken the same approach to his villainous character, from his shock of snow-white hair to his terrifyingly icy demeanor. KEY LINE: “Women. Nothing surprises me, Chip, except your late mother. Who’d have thought Selina had a brain to damage. Bottom line, she tries to blackmail me, I’ll drop her out a higher window. Meantime, I got better fish to fry.”

True Romance THE ROLE: Vincenzo Coccotti, mob kingpin THE WALKEN TOUCH: This one-scene role is, to many, the definitive Walken performance. Everything we’ve come to identify with his persona is here: the off-beat dialogue cadences, the unexpected changes in tempo and volume, and, more than anything, the sense that he could just snap at any second. KEY LINE: “That smarts, doesn’t it? Getting slammed in the nose. Fucks you all up. You get that pain shootin’ through your brain, your eyes fill up with water. That ain’t any kind of fun, but what I have to offer you, that’s as good as it’s gonna get.”

Wild Side THE ROLE: Bruno Buckingham, rich businessman with a kinky streak THE WALKEN TOUCH: One of the many hard-R erotic thrillers made in the wake of Basic Instinct, the filmmakers got more than they bargained for when they cast Walken in what amounts to the Michael Douglas role. He’s never been a terribly inhibited actor, but whatever restraint or modesty remained was flung away for this fascinatingly peculiar effort. KEY LINE #1: “The point is, she stays. She leaves, I blow your genitalia off. That’s the point, okay? It’s the lady’s choice.” KEY LINE #2: “You know what you get for rape? Ten years in a cell! With a gorilla! With a psycho gorilla!”

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead THE ROLE: The Man With the Plan, quadriplegic crime boss THE WALKEN TOUCH: Confined to a wheelchair for the role, Walken turns up all of his vocal tics to play the loathsome local kingpin. But he really lets his freak flag fly in the scenes where he’s attended to by his pretty blonde nurse (Jenny McCarthy). KEY LINE: “She’s a 10, Jimmy. She’s a world unto herself. She can’t nurse worth shit, but I keep her on, because even though I can’t feel it, I know I get erections in her presence.”

Suicide Kings THE ROLE: Charlie Barrett, a (you’ll never guess) crime boss THE WALKEN TOUCH: Another immobile performance — this time, Walken spends most of the movie tied to a chair, his character kidnapped by a group of young, wannabee hoods. But, again, he’s more than willing to compensate for his lack of movement with his peculiar delivery and oddball rhythms. KEY LINE: “Anybody wants to hold hands with my dick, I insist they buy me a drink first. I mean, after all, I’m not asking for dinner and dancing.”

Gigli THE ROLE: Detective Stanley Jacobellis THE WALKEN TOUCH: Walken has exactly one scene in this unjustly maligned 2003 flop, and his bit alone is worth the rental; he strides into the movie and turns loose a performance that’s nutty as a fruitcake — or a pie, as the case may be. KEY LINE: “Man, you know what I’d love to do? Right now? Go down to Marie Callender’s, get me a big bowl, pie, some ice cream on it, mmm-hmm good! Put some on your head! Your tongue would slap your brains out trying to get to it! Interested? Sure?

Joe Dirt THE ROLE: Clem, a former mobster (sensing a pattern?), now hiding in Witness Protection as a school janitor. THE WALKEN TOUCH: By this point, people were hiring Walken just to be Walken — to spout non-sequiturs, to be odd, and maybe to do a bit of tap-dancing. He does all here, admirably. KEY LINE: “You’re talking to me all wrong… It’s the wrong tone. You do it again and I’ll stab you in the face with a soldering iron. Hey, tell me, does your mother sew? BOOM. Get her to sew that!”

Envy THE ROLE: J-Man, a drifter and general crackpot THE WALKEN TOUCH: In films like this and Joe Dirt, Walken is so much an entity onto himself — so off on his own planet — that he becomes the only thing unusual or entertaining thing in the film. He’s particularly great in the otherwise-awful Envy; watch, in this clip, what he does with the otherwise simple line “Good for you.” KEY LINE: “I’ll tell you one thing: If a pretzel is a quality pretzel, it doesn’t need salt. It’s just a fact.”

Seven Psychopaths THE ROLE: Hans, a philosophical, cravat-wearing dognapper THE WALKEN TOUCH: As a bad guy trying to do good, Walken plays most of his scenes with a twinkle in his eye. But he’s not afraid to get menacing (witness the scene where he takes that cravat off), and, as seen above, he’s not one for getting pushed around. KEY LINE #1: “I think I’d have made a great Pope… I’m very lenient.” KEY LINE #2: (When asked if he drinks) “I take peyote.”