Christopher Walken made his Broadway stage
debut as a chorus dancer in 1964. In 1966 he appeared in the role of
King Philip of France in "The Lion in Winter" and also appeared in
revival of William’s "The Rose Tattoo" that year. Mr. Walken alternated
working in films and appearing onstage at Lincoln Center and in regional
theater productions. He appeared in many of the great Shakespearean
roles -- Macbeth, Romeo, Bassanio, Coriolanus, Iago and Mark Antony. In
the 1982 season at The American Shakespeare Theatre he also appeared in
"Henry IV, Part 1" as Henry Percy and Hotspur.
"I grew up in show business," says
Walken. "I was in musicals until
I was twenty-five. That's my training. I went to different places and
studied. Basically when you work with certain actors, like Irene Worth,
that's the best. The good ones always show you everything."
(The Magic of Theater)
1966 Theatre World Award for The Rose Tattoo
1966 Clarence Derwent Award for The Lion in Winter
1970 Joseph Jefferson Award - Jeff Award for The Night Thoreau Spent in
1970 Drama Desk Awards - Outstanding Performance for Lemon Sky
1975 Off-Broadway Theater Awards - Obie Award for Kid Champion
1981 Off-Broadway Theater Awards - Obie Award for The Seagull
1994 Shakespeare Theater - Will Award given to him for contributions to
Joseph Papp's Public Radio Theatre - Susan Stain Shiva Award
1975 Joseph Jefferson Award - Jeff Award: Best Guest Artist for Sweet
Bird of Youth
2000 Tony Awards - Best Actor in a Musical for James Joyce's The Dead
2010 Tony Awards - Best Actor in a Play for James Joyce's The Dead
The Climate of Eden (52/Martin
Beck Theatre NY)
J.B (12/11/58-ANTA Theater)....David
Best Foot Forward (4/2/63-Stage 73 Theater)....Clayton
click to enlarge left pic
Walken trained there
to be a dancer, not an actor. And less than a year into his studies
at Hofstra University, he dropped out after landing a part in a 1963 Off
Broadway musical called
Best Foot Forward . "I just
got up and left one day because that's what I wanted," he says. "It
was probably for the best, because I knew I was neve going to be a
Walken and Kay Cole singing "A
Glenn and Christopher Walken, Edmund Gaynes: "Three
Men on a Date"
LIZA MINNELLI played the role of Ethel
Hofflinger alongside a very young Christopher Walken in BEST FOOT
It was Minelli's first stage success.
"I got a part in Best Foot Forward and I went to work. The job was
more important than school. I just went to work." (CW)
This is the musical for which Walken left his year-long stint in the
ROTC program at Hofstra University at age 20 (major English, then toying a
career as teacher). It was with this "do it yourself" attitude he left
formal education behind to pursue performance through actual jobs and
learn how to stay in the ring.
Director and choreographer Danny Daniels had taught tap dancing to
the Walken brothers some 8 years before. He would later choreograph
Herbert Ross' last musical for MGM, Pennies from Heaven (1981), and
recommend Walken for the pivotal role of Tom, the sinister tap-dancing
pimp who tempts Bernadette Peters into selling her booty during the
Walken, in an interview, recalled the fond memories of dancing with
Judy Garland at a cast party for Best Foot Forward. Brother Glenn, 2 years
Chris' junior, was also in the musical as Bud Hopper, a star-struck, naive
young man who asked a "Queen of the B-Movies" to meet him at a hotel.
(synopsis, Walken-roles, cast and more infos)
Spirits (4/17/64-Alvin Theater)....chorus
West Side Story (64-touring
Walken met his later wife Georgianne) siehe Biografie!
"As a matter of fact, we met doing a summer tour of
West Side Story.
the head of the Jets, and she
was Graciela, his girlfriend." (CW)
Baker Street (2/16/65-
from Ronald to Christopher by
his Broadway musical "Baker Street"
co-star Monique Van Vooren.
Lion In Winter (3/3/66-Ambassador Theater)....
Philip, King of France (Clarence Derwent Award)
casting director asked Walken to audition for the Broadway play The Lion
"I didn't know how to act," said Walken. When the company tried out
in Boston, Walken was awful. "It was fear," he said. The producer decided
to fire Walken, but he begged for three more days to improve. The show's
star, the late Robert Preston, showed Walken how to relax, and as a
result he won the Clarence Derwent Award for best nonfeatured performance
by an unknown actor.
"Everyone thought I was this great actor because I won this award,"
Walken said. "I wore tights in the show, so they figured I could play
Shakesepeare." He was invited to Canada to play Romeo. "I really stunk,"
he said."They were furious. Not only was this guy an American, he can't
act." (CW, Parade-Mag, 1997)
For Measure (7/12/66- Delacorte Theater)....Claudio
click to enlarge
The Rose Tattoo
(10/20/66- NYC Center)....Jack
Hunter (Theater World Award)
click to enlarge
The Unknown Soldier And His Wife
(7/6/67- Beaumont Abbott Theaters)....Unknown
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play by Peter Ustinov that was first presented in New York in 1967.
The cast included Christopher Walken,
Brian Bedford, Howard DaSilva, and Nancy Readon. It sweeps from ancient
Rome to medieval England to modern times,
with links provided by recurring characters who emerge whenever war comes
and who controls its course.
in Aulis (11/21/67- Circle Theater)....Achilles
Press Articles and more
with Irene Papas;
click to enlarge( 2)
Romeo And Juliet
I was raised on Stratford. I remember going there when I was 18 and
falling in love with Christopher Walken as Romeo. I had a lot of dreams
surrounding these people." (Rosemary Dunsmore, Schauspielerin). "I saw
Walken at Stratford, Ontario, in 1968 when he was 25; he was the most
beautiful young man I've ever seen in person (he had a 'not-quite-human'
look of perfection). His main role was Romeo opposite Louise Marleau (...)
. Most post-performance discussions were about which of the two was more
beautiful (they both had very heavy [post-"Cleopatra"] eye makeup). "
"Panned by most reviews, [von der Kritik zerrissen] Romeo and Juliet drew
only moderate, 78-per-cent crowds during its run. Louise Marleau had taken
a crash course in English, but her speaking was inadequate - monotonously
high-pitched and so heavily accented as often to be incomprehensible.
Christopher Walken's Romeo was also generally considered weak, with Walter
Kerr describing him as "the politest Romeo I ever saw - polite to his
elders, polite to his inferiors, polite to the moon. You don't meet his
mother, of course; but you can perfectly well hear her, upon discovering
that mess in the tomb, saying, 'I just don't understand it, he wasn't the
kind of boy to give trouble.'" (John Pettigrew and Jame Portman)
"Christopher Walken is clearly a rising star, but has little
experience...evident in the narrowness of his ranges of gesture,
intonation, and expression. But inexperience can have charming results as
it often did in the production...Romeo never really got off the ground
with his more lyrical passages, and frequently lost the rhythm and
meaning. (...)...If Romeo and Juliet did not speak like angels, they
certainly looked like them...Romeo, unbewigged and refreshingly
fair-haired, looked like everyone's idea of Shelley, and clearly brought
out the maternal instincts (and others far from maternal) in ladies in the
audience.[weckte mütterliche und andere Gefühle beim weiblichen
Publikum]..The 1920 costumes ...especially with Romeo, have intensified
the play's romanticism." (John Pettigrew)
Die Kritik fiel also nicht immer positiv aus. Für Walken selbst eine
kleine Enttäuschung. "I never knew why I got the job.
But I always suspected it was because I`d done a job where I wore tights."
Dann aber, mit der Zähigkeit seines Vaters,
begann er hart an sich zu arbeiten, z.B. unter Lee Strasberg.
click to enlarge (4)
Midsummer Nights Dream (06/12/68-Stratford)....Lysander
click to enlarge
Three Musketeers (07/23/68 -Stratford)....Felton/Musketeer
And Guildenstern Are Dead (2/10/69)
(Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale, FL)....Rosencrantz
Tom Stoppard's first
and perhaps most famous full-length play,
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern
Are Dead presents
a worm's-eyeview of a classical tragedy, Shakespeare's Hamlet,
filtered through the existential sensibilities
of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Caesar (Summer/69-San Diego Shakespeare Festival)....Mark
left pic: click to
Of Errors (Summer/69-San Diego Shakespeare Festival)
....Antipholus de Syracuse
(Summer/69-San Diego Shakespeare Festival)....Macduff
The Chronicles of Hell
(10/69-APA Rep., Ann Arbor, MI)....Sodomati
Lemon Sky (5/17/70-
Ivanhoe Theater, Chicago)....Alan
Nach Lanford Wilson (autobiografisch)
Night Thoreau Spent in Jail (1/18/70-Goodman Theater, Chicago)
(Joseph Jefferson Award)
Scenes from an American Life
Scenes from American Life is a collection of nearly forty short scenes
connected by scraps of period music, each scene showing a glimpse of life in
upper-middle-class Buffalo over the course of about fifty years. A few of
the characters appear in more than one scene, but most do not. Most of the
characters are not even named; each is instantly recognizable, however, by
his or her type.
click to enlarge
Tale of Cymbeline (8/17/71-Delacorte Theater)
a play by William
(4/8/72-American Place Theater)....Georg
in The Judgement Act
The Palace at 4am (8/72-John
Drew Theater, E. Hampton, NY)....Oedipus
Enemies (11/9/72- Beaumont
a play by Maxim Gorky
The Plough and the Stars
(1/4/73- Beaumont Theater)....Jack
The Merchant of
Venice (4/1/73-Beaumont Theater)
of Death/Miss Julie (5/11/73-Long Wharf, New Haven, CT)
Musical (7/73-Lenox Art
Center, Lenox, MA)...Harry
and Cressida (12/2/73-Mitzi E.Newhouse Theater/Lincoln)....Achilles
Kimbrough, produced by Joseph Papp's NY Shakespeare Festival
An evening at the theater:
We were riveted by a young actor named Christopher Walken.
“Now, that guy has a future!”
click to enlarge
The Tempest (2/10/74-Newhouse
"The role that I came
away from with the most muscle was the one that I failed [ziemlich
scheiterte] in: Macbeth. It's probably the most terrible role ever
written, terrible in the literal sense of terrifying and enormous.
This is a role that makes as many requirements [Anforderungen] on
you as anything could. I played it at Lincoln Center for ten weeks
[in 1974], eight shows a week, and I did not succeed [war nicht sehr
glorreich] at all. Ten weeks' work, and we never even got reviewed,
except by one.... " (CW)
"But I never regretted [bedauerte] doing it for a minute, because I
came away from the production with this tremendous [enormen
Einsicht] insight about myself and about acting that I could not
possibly have gotten anywhere else. It was taking on that monster
and being trounced [geprügelt] by it, but still learning something.
That's what actors mean when they talk about stretching." (CW)
played the role of "Banquo" in this production, which ran for 82
previews from April 13 to June 23, 1974.
Performed at the New York Shakespeare Festival, the production also
starred Carol Kane and Peter Weller.
click to enlarge pics (3)
(10/16/74 -Center Playhouse, Seattle, WA)....Hamlet
This production took
place on Mars or something - the costumes were strange, it was a very
strange thing...it was what they call a concept production. I was not
happy with it.'' (CW)
"We were all dressed up like for Star Trek, with big pointed
shoulders. I got into huge arguments, but I would be told, 'People are
tired of seeing Hamlet - you have to make it a little different for them.'
This way of doing Shakespeare in this country is of such epidemic
proportions that if anybody did a classic production of the play it would
be like a new thing. It's insanity." (CW)
I was a
monster. I was the biggest bastard that ever lived, because [Kid
Champion] was the biggest bastard." (CW)
I cant wait until [Kid Champion] closes, because you are too
much." (Georgianne Walken)
Sweet Bird Of Youth
(12/3/75-Brooklyn Academy of Music,
12/29/75- Harkness Theater, 1/76- Academy
Festival Theater, Chicago, IL)
(Worth received her second best-actress prize in 1976 for her
portrayal of an aging but still glamorous movie star in a memorable
revival of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth," appearing in
the play opposite a young Christopher Walken.)
"Walken`s body has brains. Dancing has enhanced that, but it's
really a God-given gift. He moves in such an insinuating
[schmeichlerischer Art] way. His pelvis is talking, his knees are
talking. The way he handled his body in Sweet Bird turned everybody
on. The girls with the production were affected by it, and so were a
lot of the fellows, consciously or otherwise. He never bruised Irene
Worth once. The only other person I've ever heard of with such
exquisite kinetic control is Brando...In fact, Irene was supposed to
do Sweet Bird with another actor in London, and she wouldn't. That's
the kind of effect Chris had on her."
"Christopher Walken has also a kind of beauty to him but he invests
it with a decadence that recalls Baudelaire and other doomed
souls...both Miss Worth and Mr. Walken are superb - in timing, in
temperament, even in dramatic temperature."
click to enlarge (8)
thanks a lot, dear Gwen!!
Yale Repertory Theater,
The Wild Duck (4/78)
Measure for Measure (5/79)....Claudio
(full size pics)
The Seagull (11/11/80-Public/Newman Theater)....Trigorin
as Trigorin advances his standing as one of our most electrifying
He is thoroughly convincing in the way he established
Trigorin as the erotic center of the play."
Henry IV, Part I (7/82-American Shakespeare Theater, Stratford, CT)....Henry
"I love working on
the stage too much to be inhibited [abgehalten werden] by dissenting
opinions. As long as I get a strong reaction I'm quite happy. I've
always thought of myself more as an entertainer than an actor.
Whatever else I do I manage to get the audience's attention. Being
unpredictable and creating surprise arouses interest." (CW)
"Anglicizing Shakespeare isn't something I'm prepared to comply
with. I sound like an American which is what I am. I want people to
identify with that. I may like to take risks but I don't believe
that I could betray [hintergehe] Shakespeare's poetry. I have a
natural sense of rhythm and music. Anyway I am perfectly confident
that the Bard [Dichter] will survive anything I do to him. He will
not be damaged in this encounter even if I am." (CW)
click (right pic)
(82-American Shakespeare Theater, Stratford, CT)....Hamlet
with Anne Baxter
of his line readings are unconventional, and some are downright
Philanderer (82-Yale Repertory Theater, New Haven, CT)