Christopher Walken’s place in film history is secure, having appeared in Oscar-winning classics such as Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, and Pulp Fiction, and blockbusters including Batman Returns, Catch Me If You Can, Wedding Crashers, and Hairspray. Yet at sixty-nine, Walken continues to film several movies a year, including the recently-released A Late Quartet. The film, in which Walken plays aging cellist Peter Mitchell who discovers he has Parkinson’s Disease, is possibly the most vulnerable work of Walken’s career. In A Late Quartet, Mitchell’s disease threatens to bring his twenty-five year tenure in a world-renowned string quartet to a crashing halt. When Mitchell announces his retirement to his fellow musicians (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir), long suppressed battles of lust and egos rise to the surface, threatening to forever disband the tight quartet. While the film remains playing in limited release, Walken and I spoke on the phone from New York, where is currently filming yet another movie. Here’s what Walken shared with me about playing a character suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, why he can’t stop making movies, and filming A Late Quartet.
Jackson Truax: I know you’re currently filming in New York, but in your breaks from shooting you’re calling journalists to talk about A Late Quartet. Of all the films in your long career, why is A Late Quartet important to you and so much so that you’re championing it so passionately at this stage?
Christopher Walken: A Late Quartet is important to me because I think I’m good it in. Also, it’s different. I don’t get a lot of parts like that. Maybe now I will. I never used to get the parts of fathers and grandfathers and uncles. In A Late Quartet, this guy is kind of Papa in the movie. He’s the patriarch… I hope it opens the door for me to be able to do more of that. I spend so much time playing troubled people, disturbed people. And that’s fine. It’s been a good living. But sometimes it’s a little monotonous. I’d like to be able to do something else once in a while.