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Christopher Walken


  1. Mandy Patinkin, Yentl, 1962.     Who was going to be Avigdor, the rabbinical student lover of Barbra Streisand as the cross-dressing Yeshiav Boy in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s tale? Trouble was, La Barb was also the director, producer, and “co-writer”... Obvious, therefore, who was going to have all the closer-ups! So Michael Douglas, Richard Gere and Kevin Kline just fled. So did Ronald Walken - yes, named after Ronald Colman.
  2. Ryan O’Neal, Love Story, 1970
  3. Richard Backus, Dead of Night, 1974.    Considered for the young GI killed in Vietnam inexplicably returning home as a zombie. A film from director Bob Clark before he hit the Porky's lode.
  4. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
  5. Richard Burton, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
  6. Harrison Ford, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1976.
  7. Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1977.
  8. Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977.   The subject was horrendous - a prostitute allowing her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 15 guys for the real life, misshapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for   Carradine, Malle saw Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Malcolm McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), John Travolta (more into Grease)… plus such flat out surprises as  Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST).  Plus the decidedly too creepy Walken and Joe Pesci,
  9. Kris Kristofferson, Heaven's Gate, 1980.    Writer-director-ego Michael Cimino changed his mind (often). He broughtin Krtistofferson to be Averill, movinghis original choice, Walken, toreplace Jeff Bridges as Champion - Averill'srival for Isabelle Huppert. Bridges was given a new (small) role: that of John L Bridges.
  10. Michael Caine, The Hand, 1981.     Like the first and second choices(Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman), Chris passed on scenarist Oliver Stone's directing debut.

  11. Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.  Author Philip K Dick's hero was a bland bureaucrat on the page and it took the first scenarist, Hampton Fancher, four years notto see him that way - and suggest Walken or Tommy Lee Jones for the role  originally aimed at Robert Mitchum. UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard.  From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (the first choice was keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino…  to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken.  Martin Sheen was too exhausted after Apocalypse Now. In sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator.  And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list,  the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
  12. Anthony Franciosa, Tenebre, Italy, 1982.    Italian horrorsmith Dario Argento chose badly - he found Franciosa was a real horror to work with. And no match for Walken. The Village Voice once said he was the “pallidly beautiful embodment of pure evil.”
  13. Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters, 1983.   Who ya gonna call - at 555-2368...? Not Walken! Dan Aykroyd’s first draft (Ghost Smashers) was more futuristic, scary and dark. Therefore, Dr Egon Spengler was aimed at Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow and the Christophers - Lloyd and Walken. Ramis co-wrote the film but never intended being in it.
  14. Gary Busey, Lethal Weapon, 1986.   There were 39 possibles for Mel Gibson’s suicidal cop.  Just seven for this bad man target, Mr Joshua. John Saxon was first choice - but off having A Nightmare on Elm, Street: Dream Warriors.  Next up: Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Christopher Walken, James Woods… and a slimmed-down Busey.  He said the role rescued his career.

  15. Sam Waterston, September, 1987.

    Shepard, Walker and Waterston
    © Rollins-Joffe Productions, 1987

    After a few sequences, Woody Allen felt that Chris (so perfect as Annie Hall's s spooky brother ten years before when billed as “Christopher Wlaken.”) was wrong for Peter Woody asked Sam Shepard to replace him - and then after editing the film, replaced one Sam with another, reshot the whole thing  with Waterston (not letting on what he was doing) and still didn’t get it right). Woody thought Walken a truly great actor.“Just not right for the part,” Woody told Swedish critic Stig Bjorkman.“I can’t explain this exactly, correctly.   He was a little too sexy,  a little too - not macho, but manly in a sexy  way.” Which one would think perfect for a struggling writer who spurns the affections of his Vermont neighbour in favour of her married best friend.”

  16. Tommy Lee Jones, Stormy Monday, 1987.    UK director Mike Figgis admits to being terrifiedby his interview with Walken. “He flew a long way for the meeting and was completely stoned when he showed up. Very timidly I said: Have you had a chanceto look at the script? He said:  Look, do you like my face?  I went: Yes. He said: That’s good because if you don’t like my face, fuck you.  Get De Niro, I’m outa here.  And he stood up and walked out of the room.”
  17. Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1987.    Martin Scorsese wanted the newly Oscar-consecrated Walken (for The Deer Hunter) as Nikos Kaxantzakis’ Christ. “I was with him forsome time,” Walken recalled. “Talking and getting ready for the film. It was fascinating. We looked at paintings a lot.I was going to do that and they cancelled it.Then, they were going to do it again and they cancelled it again. By the time they made it,I was gone.” Four years on, director Martin Scorsese had to search anew. “The minute I saw Willem... I felt very comfortable with his face.”
  18. Adam Green,Slavesof New York,1989.      Chris was due as gallery owner Max for his Roseland pals, Merchant-Ivory: Indian producer Ismail Merchant and US director James Ivory
  19. Tcheky Karyo, Nikita, France, 1990.       If dollars were to be invested, Hollywood wanted (to spoil it all with) at least one US name. Walken and Mickey Rourke were suggested as Uncle Bob. However, a promise from a young French producteur- realisateur is rarely broken.
  20. Jeff Goldblum, Deep Cover, 1992.    When due to be made as Lots of Opportunities by director Leslie Dektor. With Laurence  Fishburne on board.

  21. Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs, 1991.
  22. Harvey Keitel, The Bad Lieutenant, 1992.    Keitel finally equals Robert DeNiro... "When writing I never conceive an acutal physical person," director Abel Ferrara told me in Cannes. "I thought of Chris until Harvey worked out how to make it at the same time as Bugsy. Now I can't imagine anyone else. He has thatNew York edge. He's not just punching the clock like they all do in Hollywood.Even at his age, he goes to acting class every day - Pacino, too. Harvey is a national treasure!"
  23. John Lithgow, Cliffhanger, 1993.     Quit as Qualen just before filming began, so John Lithgow was cast at the very last minute. And didn't simply munch but gobbled the scenery. “And,” he told me in London, “I loved every minute of it!”
  24. Harvey Keitel, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  25. Armand Assante, Judge Dredd, 1994.    Asked to be Sylvester Stallone's twin brother, Joe Pesci andWalkenknew a right dud whenthey saw one. Stallone soldieredonin sheer, blind belief, making life hell for UK helmer Danny Cannonin a film that Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called a Blade Runner for people suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder.
  26. Tom Cruise, Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, 1994.
  27. Jamey Sheridan, The Stand, TV, 1994.     “Pleased to meecha, Lloyd,” says Randall Flagg in the Stephen King mini-series. “Hope you guess my name." Difficult... as it changed from Walken to Miguel Ferrer to Jeff Goldblum to Willem Dafoe to James Woods… before it was decided to go with “a lesser known face.” Oh really! The Broadway award winner had only been Vincent D’Onofrio’s boss, Captain Deakins, for five years of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, from 2001  
  28. Chazz Palminteri, The Usual Suspects, 1994.      What do they know? Like Chris, Robert De Niro and Al Pacio also passed on the suspects-chasing US Customs Agent Dave Kujan.  The suspects included two of the finest Walken imitators, Kevin Pollak and (“the best,” says Mrs Walken) Kevin Spacey.
  29. Peter Greene, The Usual Suspects, 1994.   When he refused Kujan, Bryan Singer asked Chris  to be Redfoot, the LA fence. When he passed - again -  the role was offered to Johnny Cash, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Pacino, Charlie Sheen, James Spader.  The New Jersey actor  got the part - but no credit. 
  30. George Clooney, From Dusk Till Dawn,1995.      And they say he never turns down a role.

  31. James Cromwell, Star Trek: First Contact,1996.
  32. Robert Wagner, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery1997.    Mike Myers' first notion for Number Two.
  33. Robert De Niro, Meet The Parents, 2000.    First Reserve in case De Niro balked at another comedy.Far from it!  Comedies, he reported, are nice. "When you make a drama, you spend all day beating a guy to death with a hammer... With a comedy, you yell at Billy Crystal for an hour, and you go home."
  34. Whoopi Goldberg,  Monkeybone, 2000.  At first, the film was to be as dark as the graphic novel.  That meant  Walken would be the Thanatopolis ruler called…  Death.  Instead, the Thanatopolis ruler became black, not dark. 
  35. Jay Mohr, The Simpsons #251:  Insane Clown Poppy, TV, 2000. Since its 1989 birth, the yellowtoon family Simpson smashed records for episodes, audiences, and the most guest stars (as themselves or others). From Buzz Aldrin, Glenn Close (Homer’s Mom), Dennis Franz (Evil Homer!), George Harrison, Stephen Hawking, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hope, Eric Idle to Paul and Linda McCartney, Conan O’Brien (a Simpsons writer made good), Michelle Pfeiffer, Mickey Rooney, Ringo Starr, Meryl Streep plus Barry (and Betty) White!  Not all celebs played ball… Walken said yes, then no and Mohr did.  His. Walken. Impression.
  36. Val Kilmer, Mindhunters, 2002.    The FBI trains ateam to hunt serial killers - and there is one among 'em. Not released until 2005.
  37. Johny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2002.      Walken the plank...!Now that would have been another kind of pirate movie entirely. Scary!
  38. Vincent Pastore, Shark Tale, 2003.  Walken walked by DreamWorks’ fishy take on The Godfather. Or a certain TV series…. As Big Pussy Bonensiero from The Sopranos voiced Luca, the dim “left-hand, right-hand man” adviser of the great white shark mobster Don Lino - first offered to James Gandolfini - Tony Soprano himself. Michael Imperioli, who played his nephew Christopher,  voiced Frankie, what you might call a hit-shark in a shark hit.

  39. Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2004.     
    Too frightening for the kiddywinks, surely. (Yes - and don’t call me Shirley!). Yet Walken was in director Tim Burton’s 30-strong wish list for the chocolatier, Willy Wonka… from ole Beetlejuice Michael Keaton to… Rowan Atkinson, Dan Aykroyd, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chase, Warwick Davis, Robert De Niro, James Gandolfini, Dwayne Johnson, Ian McKellen, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, John Neville, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Peter Sallis, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams. And the surviving Monty Python crew (also up for the 1970 version): John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. Depp found Willy’s voice from imagining a stoned George W Bush! Among the five exec producers, author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy, wanted her husband’s favourite Willy - Dustin Hoffman.   If not possible she voted for UK comics, Eddie Izzard or David Walliams. She was quite happy with Depp… who found Willy’s voice while riffing on a stoned George W Bush!

  40. Mark Derwin, Dirty Deeds, 2004.    Scant hesitation in refusing the  American Pierip-off, produced by the Green Diamond group of major-league baseball players, butchered in the telling and performing (the hero of 18 was played by a 27-year-old who shall remain nameless). “Too mild to be dirty,” said US critic Scott Brown, “yet too dirty to be charming.”

  41. Powers Boothe,  Sin City, 2004.    Director Robert Rodriguez juggled Booth, Willem Dafoe and  Walken  for Senator Roarke, father of Junior, aka The Yellow Bastard!

  42.  Ethan Hawke, Assault On Precinct13, 2005.     Aw c'mon, two mediocre  re-makes in two years was enuff, awready! 

  43. Frank LangellaSuperman Returns, 2006. 
  44. Bill Nighy, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, 2006.      Scarier...Creepy Walken was an early thought for Davy Jones.
  45. Robert Duvall, We Own The Njght, 2006.      His schedule forced Walken to quit as police chief Albert Grinsky.  Despite a 12 year age difference, Duvall took over - only to be constabtly insulted by Joaquin Phoenix getting into the mood as his son. IMDb reported that co-star Mark Wahlberg had to “restrain” Phoenix.
  46. James Brolin, Love, Wedding, Marriage, 2010.    Lucky escape! Actor Dylan McDermott’s directing  debut = an alleged comedy  - won scathing  reviews such as Slant Magazine’s Kalvin Henley dubbing it “a movie so shallow and wooden, its actors less models than mannequins, that it resembles a furniture catalogue.”  
  47. Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011.   Oh, Hollywood… Since the musical’s 1985 London opening, suggestions for Valjean went from  the logical - Robert De Niro, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline - to the preposterous: Walken, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford.  Plus close pals, rarely rivals, Beatty and Jack Nicholson. However, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman  and Al Pacino were too short for the hefty hero who, in a signature scene, has to carry Cosette’s lover, away from the battle of the barricades. {it it anothewr way, Hollywood’s last Valjean had been Liam Neeson  - 6ft. 4in.
  48. Paul Schrader, Dog Eat Dog, 2016.    The crooks are so dumb, this is  kinda Carry On Tarantino. But the director, Paul Schrader, said: “The film is as much about crime films as it is about criminals. There’s kind of a meta quality to it.” Just not enough to interest Walken, Michael Douglas, Rupert Everett, Jeff Goldblum, Nick Nolte, Michael Wincott in playing a mobster called The Greek. Schrader also asked fellow directors - but Italian Americans! - Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Then, Nic Cage persuaded his director to go Greek, himself. 






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