Even Christopher Walken doesn’t speak like Christopher Walken. He may be tall and imposing, especially in the long, black overcoat he's wearing (and on a warm spring day). But the legendary actor is, as it happens, also soft-spoken and shy. When he talks he doesn’t do what he does in movies: emphasizing odd syllables, pausing at random places, filling people with intense dread. When he’s acting, it seems, even Christopher Walken is doing a Christopher Walken impersonation.
Walken is in town to speak about the indie dramedy “The Family Fang.” The Oscar-winner plays one half of a famous performance artist couple (along with stage actress Maryann Plunkett) who’ve done a mental number on their kids, now grown and played by Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman. (The latter also directed.) His character, Caleb, is no hero, but he’s not a villain, as Walken has so often been typecast. Instead Caleb has rationalized the harm he does to others.
“There’s that thing with certain people where they believe the breaking of eggs is necessary if you want to make an omelet,” Walken tells us, quietly. “He steps on some toes because he thinks it’s OK, because it’s justified. Not a very nice man. I’ve never had kids, but I’d never want that guy for a father.”
Walken has spoken often about his longing to play characters more like him: not just complex but reserved, down-to-earth. A rare case where that did happen was Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can,” in which he played Leonardo Di Caprio’s haunted, tragic father. Walken was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. What happens more often, he says, is he’ll sign up for a role only to find out it’s been suddenly rewritten as wild and eccentric — what he’s called “Walkenized.”
“That happens to me a lot. I take a part and the writers decide they’re going to make it better or something. I hate when that happens,” he explains. “You’re in the costume fitting and they say to you, ‘This is for the scene where you throw her out the window.’ You say, ‘What scene is that?’ And she opens the script and there’s a scene you never saw before.”