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Biographies: Christopher Walken

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Reviewer: Trixter

BORN: March 31, 1943

Though he has long since passed the half-century mark, Christopher Walken is still frequently described as an "intense young actor." The son of a baker, Walken was fifteen when he made his off-Broadway debut--billed as "Ronnie Walken"--in Archibald MacLeish's J.B. He wouldn't be billed as Christopher Walken until his appearance in the 1965 musical Baker Street, by which time he had extensively studied for his craft at Hofstra University and the ANTA. In 1966, he won the Theatre World award for his performance in the revival of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo. Three years later he appeared in his first film, Me and My Brother (1969). Adept at conveying characters with profound psychological disturbances, Walken has often been cast in "death wish" parts, including his portrayal of Diane Keaton's suicidal younger brother in Annie Hall (1977) and his Oscar-winning performance as Russian Roulette-playing Nick in The Deer Hunter (1978). The apotheosis of his doomed-from-the-start characters was Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone, whose ability to predict future tragedies ends in a bloody self-sacrifice. Ever broadening his acting range, Walken has played such roles as the tap-dancing hustler in Pennies from Heaven (1981), the smooth-talking but deadly "gangster dad" in At Close Range (1986), the truculent farmer humanized by housekeeper Glenn Close in Sarah Plain and Tall (1991) and white-haired megalomaniac Max Schreck in Batman Returns (1991). Busy though he is in films, Christopher Walken has remained active in the theatre as both actor and playwright throughout the 1990s.

SOURCE: All Movie Guide

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