Impersonations of actor Christopher Walken’s eccentric vocal delivery—with its staccato, irregular pauses and whiny inflections—are nothing new.
Among the best Walken send-ups over the years have been performed by fellow thespians. Kevin Pollack (who co-starred with Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men) turns in a convincing one here:
As does Jay Mohr—who, coincidentally, co-starred with Cruise in Jerry Maguire (no word if Cruise does Walken, too):
So it’s surprising that the Associated Press reported that yet another Walken impersonator was actually the genuine article.
The AP got wind of “Walken” phoning a Washington, D.C. sports-talk radio station, ESPN 980, to discuss what he knew of actress Natalie Wood’s 1981 death, as police are reopening the investigation. (Walken was aboard the yacht from which Wood reportedly fell and drowned.)
Except the caller wasn’t Walken; it was Marc Sterne, one of the producers for “The Sports Fix” show, who’s been doing humorous call-ins impersonating Walken over the last two years, said program director Chuck Sapienza.
The initial AP story stayed live for about an hour Friday before the news syndicate learned it wasn’t Walken on the air; then it ran an updated piece, noting the error.
Here’s the audio clip of ESPN 980’s “Walken” interview regarding the Natalie Wood tragedy:
With throwaway lines like, “We had a lot to drink that night. There was Sambuca. There was shouting. And then there was tragedy. And that’s all I can remember,” it’s difficult to fathom how Sterne—who, as “Walken,” added that he read “one of the Hardy Boys novels” before retiring for the evening—could have been mistaken for the Academy Award-winning actor.
Sapienza noted his displeasure with the AP calling the bit a “hoax” in corrections to news outlets. “It’s not set up as real,” he said. “It’s not like we’re trying to fool anybody. We say it’s the person on the air but we never believe that someone actually thinks the person’s actually there.”
“No one [from AP] called us to see if it was real, and then they call it a hoax,” Sapienza told The Washington Post. “A hoax makes it sound like it’s our fault… They’re taking no responsibility for shoddy journalism.”
In the meantime, the real Walken has reportedly hired a lawyer in the wake of the reopened case, despite reports that he’s not considered a suspect. In a 1997 interview with Playboy magazine (tracked down by The Hollywood Reporter), Walken offered some thoughts about how the late wife of actor Robert Wagner may have met her end:
“Anybody there saw the logistics — of the boat, the night, where we were, that it was raining — and would know exactly what happened. You hear about things happening to people — they slip in the bathtub, fall down the stairs, step off the curb in London because they think that the cars come the other way — and they die. You feel you want to die making an effort at something; you don’t want to die in some unnecessary way.”
Check out his menacing portrayal in this clip from The Dead Zone (some rough language, beware):
But more recently Walken has been beloved for frequent self-parody and his comedic abilities. Who can forget his classic portrayal as a cowbell-loving record producer for Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” on Saturday Night Live?
Walken also gave an uproarious, dramatic reading of “Poker Face”—another of Lady Gaga’s endlessly popular, typically racy tunes—for the BBC a few years back: