It’s funny to think about Christopher Walken as a cellist, like the one he plays in his new movie, A Late Quartet. If ever there were a man whose voice were more musical. Given the off-tempo rhythm, the rat-tat-tat… TAT delivery and his general beatnik-style disregard for familiar parameters of speech, the thought of having another instrument in the mix seems like a perilous proposition.

Which is why we’re presenting for icon-hood: the great Walken and his patent elocution…

I have one good Walken story. An actor friend was in the Broadway cast of James Joyce’s The Dead with the most oft-imitated man in Hollywood. He played me a voice message that Walken had left him that said: “You gotta come over. We’re having a party. Swoosie Kurtz is in the hot tub. We’re making SWOOP over here…”

By this point, I’d already seen his harrowing scenes in Deer Hunter, I’d seen him strip to his skivvies and tap up a storm in Pennies from Heaven, I’d seen him freak the fuck out of Woody Allen in Annie Hall… and yet here was another surprise: a throwaway joke with impeccable delivery.

Rare in life is the man who can make you behold the power of speech.

Rarer still is the man who can pull that off with the coolness of a cucumber. The coolness of a man who can have both The Country Bears and Kangaroo Jack on his résumé yet can still hold his own against Pacino and Hopper at their most intense. His speeches from films like True Romance and King of New York are quoted daily by both thugs and drama geeks.

He’s a song-and-dance man who can also be the most menacing of gangsters. A classically trained actor who feels forever modern. It’s his constant duality that always keeps us interested and always keeps us guessing. It’s no small feat. But no one said being an icon is easy.

—A.P.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Andrew Bradbury