On any given day, bring up the name Christopher Walken and you’re almost guaranteed to hear an impression of the famed actor. Everyone has one, whether they’re closeted impressions or not. From chants of “more cowbell!” to asking “what’s the deal with …” the man’s voice and delivery are the stuff of legend.
So it’s funny to learn that the guy everyone impersonates is really bad at impressions. The TV Junkies visited New York to speak with the Academy Award and Emmy winner at a roundtable ahead of Thursday night’s Peter Pan Live!, where he spoke about other famous Captain Hook portrayers and offered this revelation.
“I watched Cyril Ritchard give a great performance in the TV production with Mary Martin. And I thought for a minute, why don’t I just do everything he does?” Walken posed. “That would be perfectly reasonable, because no one would know what I was doing. I would just be doing an impression of Cyril, and because I’m a terrible impersonator, no one would know.”
In the end, Walken decided to just make the character his own, “just like me.” Although when asked what he thought that meant, the 71-year-old said it was too early to tell. They hadn’t, after all, even really started flying during rehearsals.
But with the live production hitting TV screens Thursday night, now’s the time for everything to come together. Given the number of fans who hate-watched last year’s Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood, Walken, Peter Pan portrayer Allison Williams (Girls) and the rest of the cast and crew have a daunting task ahead of them with this three-hour production. Especially given the controversy surrounding Williams, who has never done Broadway before. (We have faith though.)
Since the project was announced, it was Walken who was the biggest draw–to audiences and NBC alike. In fact the Peacock network confirmed the actor’s casting ahead of anyone else’s, and in the electronic press kits producers raved about his performance to help create buzz. For theatre-goers in New York it was no surprise that the Tony-nominee would take the role, but for those used to seeing the man helm non-sining and dancing roles in films, it was slightly more surprising.
Shocking or not, Walken is having the time of his life. How could he not, when he gets to dance in five different musical numbers, be chased by a crocodile, act like an insane pirate “with a lot of issues” and sword fight?
“It’s a wonderful thing to work on. It’s a classic piece, a very well-made piece. And that’s always nice. You don’t have to twist and bend (figuring things out),” he said. “There aren’t a lot of actors who can do musicals, I don’t think, [at] my age. So it’s natural that when one comes up they ask me to do it. I never thought about playing Captain Hook, but I also loved watching Peter Pan.”
Let’s see if everyone else feels the same when when the new televised musical airs Thursday night.
Peter Pan Live! soars Thursday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and City. Are you tuning in? Tell us below!