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Christopher Walken featured in the New Yorker


“Christopher Walken is a scrofulous wonder to behold.  
He has seldom been more enthralling.”
–Ben Brantley, The New York Times


Academy Award-winner Christopher Walken, star of A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE, is featured in this week’s New Yorker, now on stands.  Walken gave New Yorker writer Peter Stevenson a tour of his childhood neighborhood, Astoria, Queens. The article is below.

The New Yorker
Home Again by Peter Stevenson
April 19, 2010

Christopher Walken buckled his seat belt as the Suburban with tinted windows sped up on the Queensborough Bridge. He was wearing a blue overcoat and a cashmere scarf over a black T-shirt and black pants. “When you came across this bridge, you could smell bread, twenty-four hours a day,” he said. “From the Silvercup bakery—now it’s Silvercup Studios, where they made ‘The Sopranos.’ ”

It was noon on a recent sunny Thursday, and Walken was heading to Astoria, where he was born and brought up. His hair was long and unruly for his role in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy “A Behanding in Spokane.” As the car crossed into Queens, Walken leaned forward to speak to his driver, Alonzo Castro: “Stay to the left, under the tracks.”

Walken’s father, Paul, was a baker from a family of German bakers; his mother, Rosalie, lived in Bayside until she died, a few weeks ago, at a hundred and four. “She could never really break with Astoria,” Walken, who is sixty-seven, said. “I’m kind of the same way.”

“When I was a kid here, I’d get on the subway, and—bang—you’re in Times Square,” he said. “I was a kid in show business. In those days, the nineteen-fifties, they used a lot of kids on TV. Television was all live, and it all came from New York. All the kids in my neighborhood took dance classes. I never learned how to play baseball. I can’t really swim.

“Maybe make a left here—no, the next one,” he said. He was determined to find his old apartment building. “Our family doctor lived on this block,” he said. “He looked like Abraham Lincoln, and he smoked all the time.”

Walken asked Castro to park and wait. He was precise in his instructions, because he doesn’t have a cell phone. He got out of the car and approached a five-story building. “This is where we lived,” he said. “This fence used to have spikes on it. They really spiffed this place up.”

He peered through a first-floor window. “This was our apartment,” he said. “Look, it’s still the kitchen! You can see the icebox. The kitchen table is exactly where it was.” He paused. “Oh, there’s somebody there. I wonder if she’d let us in. Probably she’ll call the cops.”

The woman in the apartment was looking out her window at Christopher Walken.

“Hello, hello! I used to live here,” he said to the window.

The woman opened the window. “We just moved in yesterday,” she said. “But if you want to pop in it’s O.K.”

The woman, who was pregnant, buzzed him in. She didn’t appear to recognize him. The apartment was filled with moving boxes.

“Hello, my name is Chris Walken,” he said. “This is very nice of you. When I was little, I used to have my diaper changed on the kitchen table here.” He stayed in the kitchen, a polite house guest. After a minute, he said, “Well, this was very interesting. God bless and good luck!” (“This sounds silly,” he said later, “but the first thing that I can remember I was on my back, on that kitchen table, and the window facing the street was open. I remember this marvellous warm breeze coming in, so it was around June, and I was a couple of months old. And I turned my head and right next to me was a white plate with scrambled eggs on it. I can still see it.”)

A few blocks farther on, he walked up to the front of his father’s old bakery, now a hardware store, pausing to point out a travel agency. “This was a coffee shop,” he said. “The owner was the biggest bookie in the neighborhood.”

He opened the door of the hardware store. He hadn’t been inside since he was a boy. “I’m a little nervous,” he said. When he walked in, a young Korean man came over and beamed. He was Tae Kyung, one of the store’s owners.

“Hey! Man! Wow! This is Christopher Walken!” he said. “People come in here all the time and ask us, ‘Is this where Christopher Walken grew up?’ ”

“Really?” Walken said. He looked up. “It still has the same ceiling, and the same floor, look at that. Hey! My father had a great big walk-in icebox downstairs. Is it still there?”

“No, it’s all our inventory,” Kyung said.

“Wow. It’s crazy how small it is,” Walken said. “Everybody who worked here spoke German. In the front were the women who sold the stuff, and in the back were the men who made it.”

Kyung called over an employee. “You know who this is, Mario? This is Christopher Walken! ‘Batman’? ‘The Deer Hunter’?” Mario gave a polite nod. “This is a legend!” Kyung said. “A powerhouse—right here!

Walken said, “You people are great. You’re the best.” Then he headed to the car and climbed in. “O.K., Alonzo, let’s go back to New York.”

The car dropped Walken off at the West Side apartment he shares with his wife of forty-one years, the casting agent Georgianne Walken. In the kitchen, he pointed at an avocado pit suspended by toothpicks in a glass of water, a green taproot reaching downward. “Look, my avocado is growing,” he said. “Isn’t that great? It’s been sitting there for two months, then it did that.”

The play requires Walken to stay up later than he likes; when he’s not working, he’s in bed by ten and up at six, and he lives at his house in Connecticut, where his satellite dish picks up dozens of movie channels. (“I’ve never seen ‘Seinfeld.’ ”) “In Connecticut I don’t see anybody for weeks except the guy who comes and gets the trash,” he said. “At night I have possums, skunks, lots of raccoons. They come right in the house, through the cat door, and they bring their babies in. I get up at night and they’re in the kitchen, eating all the cat food.”

Walken doesn’t use a computer. “The Internet is strange,” he said. “There’s stuff on the Internet about me. I’ve tried to find out who puts it there. Something about how I go around to hot-dog festivals, that I’m a champion hot-dog eater.” Then, there’s the IMDB Web site, which says that Walken has a film “in production” called “Citizen Brando.” “I have no idea what that is.” He said he’d had a few encounters with Brando.

“Once, in the nineties, I was in Nova Scotia, doing a movie. It’s my day off, and I’m reading a book and the phone rings and this woman says, ‘Christopher Walken, are you going to be there in the next ten minutes? Marlon Brando would like to talk to you.’ I thought, This is one of my friends pulling my leg. So I said, ‘O.K.,’ and I hung up. And the phone rang again, and the second he spoke you could tell it was him. And Brando said, ‘I play the piano, you know.’ And I said, ‘No, I didn’t know that.’ And he said, ‘And I dance.’ He told me he wanted to put cameras in his house—he wanted to do a variety show out of his house. And I said, ‘Well, what can I do for you?’ He said, ‘You did this picture “Pennies from Heaven,” and I like the numbers in that. I want you to help me get in touch with the guy who did those.’ I told him it was Danny Daniels, the choreographer. Brando never did it, I guess. I’d certainly watch. Wouldn’t you?”

Click here to read the story online.
Academy Award-winner Martin McDonagh’s A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE, starring Christopher Walken and stage and screen stars Sam Rockwell, Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan plays on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street).  The production, directed by John Crowley, opened on March 4 and will play a strict 16-week engagement, through June 6 only.

is McDonagh’s first play to originate on Broadway.
The title is just the starting point; take a man searching for his missing hand (Walken), two con artists out to make a few hundred bucks (Mackie and Kazan), and an overly curious hotel clerk (Rockwell), and the rest is up for grabs.  A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE is Martin McDonagh’s hilariously black comedy, a world premiere which marks McDonagh’s first American-set play.
The design team is comprised of Scott Pask (Scenic and Costume), who won a Tony Award for his set design for The Pillowman, and Brian MacDevitt (Lighting), who won a Tony Award for his lighting design for The Pillowman.
A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE is produced by Robert Fox, Carole Shorenstein Hays, Debra Black, Stephanie P. McClelland, Ostar, Roger Berlind, Scott Rudin and The Shubert Organization.
Tickets available through Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250, or online at www.Telecharge.com or in person at the Schoenfeld Theatre box office, 236 West 45th Street.  A limited number of rush tickets are available on the day of performance when the box office opens for $26.50 (2 tickets per person). Subject to availability.  Box office hours are Monday-Saturday 10am – 8:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm – 6:00pm.


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