In the latest installment of Off the Cuff, Peter Travers catches up with Christopher Walken, and Christopher Walken catches up with the two most seminal characters of his career: the self-destructive Duane from Annie Hall and the introspective Nick from The Deer Hunter. “Do you ever wake up worrying what has happened to the characters you’ve played?” Travers asks. Walken replies dryly, “No, Duane’s ok. He’s working on a fishing boat, deep-sea trawling.”
From there, Travers asks Walken what it’s like to be impersonated so frequently by so many people. “Everyone you know has a Chris Walken impression,” Travers says.
“I have a friend of mine who does me on his answering machine,” Walken responds, “and when I call him, I answer. It’s pretty strange.” He’s no slouch with mimicry, either. “I’ve been doing Bette Davis since I sat down here, and you didn’t even notice,” he deadpans.
Travers then appeals to the air of wisdom that seems to saturate everything Walken does. “We think you know more about life than the rest of us. I bet you can give me three lessons in life I could take with me today,” Travers says.
“Those things with me are pretty basic,” Walken replies. “Even in the limo, I buckle my seatbelt. I got that seatbelt on before the car moves.” So the Number One lesson in life is to buckle up? “Definitely,” Walken says.
Walken also reveals some lesser-known facts about The Deer Hunter and Annie Hall that may make the classic films worth another rewatch. For example, it turns out Walken was just off-camera in one of The Deer Hunter‘s pivotal scenes: his own character’s funeral. “I went and hid in the bushes, and I watched everybody being sad. I had a real day off, because they were burying me,” he says. Walken also points out that his name is mistakenly listed as “Christoph Vlaken” in the credits of Annie Hall. “My agent said, ‘What’s with this?’ and they said, ‘Sorry, all the prints are made, and that’s it,'” he says.
Travers wraps up by asking Walken about 1995’s Him, a play Walken wrote about what Elvis’s life might’ve been like if he hadn’t died. “That play is about celebrity. What is that about for you? How do you live with being a celebrity?” Travers asks. Walken insists, “That’s a different thing. It was Elvis! Come on. They were chasing him down the street. He had a cape. He had a pink Cadillac.” Finally, while he may not be Elvis, Walken closes by belting out a glorious rendition of “With a Song in My Heart” as a send-off, and Travers chimes in as well.