The Life and Career of Christopher Walken

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
June 19th, 2014

Ronald Walken, better known to movie fans as Christopher Walken, was born on March 31, 1943 in Queens, New York. His mother Rosalie was a Scottish immigrant, while his father Paul was a German immigrant. Together, they ran a family bakery out of Queens, though Rosalie had always dreamed of a life and career in the spotlight. His mother's dreams would later influence young Ronald, so much so that he became a child actor alongside brothers Glenn and Kenneth. This was the start of a brilliant career that has so far spanned five decades, and counting.

After spending a few years as a child actor in such TV fare as "The Wonderful John Acton" and "The Motorola Television Hour," he stopped working for a bit to join the circus as a lion tamer when he was a teenager. He later would try college, enrolling in Hofstra University for a short time before dropping out. The motivation for dropping out came when he was cast opposite Liza Minnelli in "Best Foot Forward." Walken decided to continue to put his best foot forward by enrolling in dance classes in the hopes of becoming a classic song-and-dance man that was all the rage on Broadway at the time.

He continued to work steadily on the stage, but started going back to his roots in television for "Barefoot in Athens and "The Three Musketeers." He continued to balance TV, the occasional bit part in a film and the stage for several years, building up a lengthy resume that would be the envy of actors twice his age. It was during this time that he decided to take the stage name Christopher rather than Ronald because a friend of his suggested that it was more suited to Walken's personality and temperament.

The success of Walken's career in the 1960s was met with great success in his personal life as well. It was during this decade that he met his eventual wife Georgianne, a casting director who has worked on some very high profile projects over the years, including "Entourage" and "The Sopranos," both for premium pay cable giant HBO, even winning a coveted Emmy at one point. The couple married in 1969 and have remained married since that time. They have no children together, but do own a cat named Bowtie. Walken candidly admitted in an interview that the couple's decision not to have children is a huge reason why he has been able to have a decades-long career in Hollywood, because he had all that extra time on his hands.

In the 1970s, he starred in such classics as "The Deer Hunter," for which he received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He was considered for a role in the original "Star Wars: A New Hope," but didn't get picked. He did manage to star in other classic films of the decade, including "Annie Hall" opposite Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. In the 1980s, he reunited with his "The Deer Hunter" director Michael Cimino for "Heaven's Gate," a controversial film that has since gone on to become something of a cult classic. He even got a chance to play a Bond villain opposite Roger Moore in "A View to a Kill."

The 1990s found Walken really relishing playing the villain, especially in Tim Burton's "Batman Returns." He also stretched his acting muscles to play the lead in the romantic comedy "A Business Affair." In fact, the 1990s was a great decade for Walken, since he was being introduced to a whole new generation through his role in Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece, "Pulp Fiction" and through some infamous hosting gigs on "Saturday Night Live." He proved that he could laugh at himself and the persona that he had built up over the previous three decades, endearing him to a whole new audience.

In the 2000s, Walken continued to mix up his roles, playing both villains and funny men with equal aplomb. He also made a return to the stage, earning a Tony nomination for "A Behanding in Spokane," a play by Martin McDonagh. He has even done a few music videos to poke fun at himself, and continued his solid run of hosting "Saturday Night Live."

He continues to add to his impressive list of screen credits, with "Jersey Boys" due out in 2014. He has four more projects that are either filming or in pre-production, including "When I Live My Life Over Again" with Amber Heard, and "The Family Fang" opposite Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman. When not traveling for work, he resides in Connecticut with Georgianne and their cat.