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Must-See Photos of Christopher Walken Young — The Quirky Hollywood Icon We Can’t Get Enough Of

You'll never guess the odd job he had before making it big!

With his smooth, distinctive voice and quirky, clipped delivery, actor Christopher Walken has hosted Saturday Night Live so many times since he was a young actor that he has a standing invitation to host every year — and bring his recurring skit, “The Continental,” along with some champagne, or as he calls it, “champagna.”

Before he was famous, Chris, as he prefers to be called despite his given name being Ronald Walken, had great hair. Named after actor Ronald Colman, Walken was born in Astoria, Queens and still has his accent. The actor adopted the name Christopher when a friend told him the name suited him better than “Ronnie.”

oung clown Ronnie Walken, later film star Christopher Walken, pulls a face for the camera.  (Photo by Al Barry/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Young clown Ronnie Walken, later film star Christopher Walken, age 12 in 1955. Getty

Walken has enjoyed a varied career, from lead actor to supporting role on the stage, films and television. He initially trained as a dancer before moving on to dramatic stage and film roles, learning how to act at Hofstra University. He left after one year when he was cast in the role of Clayton Dutch Miller in an off-Broadway revival of Best Foot Forward.

Walken broke through into film in 1969, appearing in Me and My Brother before scoring his first major film role alongside Sean Connery in The Anderson Tapes in 1971.

When Walken was a little tot, he appeared as an extra in many anthology series and variety shows during the Golden Age of Television. After appearing in a sketch with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on The Colgate Comedy Hour at age 10, he decided to become an actor. It was Lewis who influenced Walken to make show business his career. At 79 years young, here’s a look back at Christopher Walken.

Christopher Walken young career

Both Chris and his brothers Kenneth and Glenn were child actors on the small screen during the 1950s, as their mom had dreams of stardom for herself. Fast forward a few years and at age 15, he saw a photo of Elvis Presley and loved everything about him, especially his look. He changed his hairstyle to resemble the singer and went on to his next career venture — a lion tamer.

Young television stars Glenn (left) and Ronnie Walken, later film star Christopher Walken, roll out dough for pie crusts at their father's bakery.
Young television stars Glenn (left) and Ronnie Walken, later film star Christopher Walken (right), roll out dough for pie crusts at their father’s bakery in 1955. Getty

Walken was seen often on TV and had a busy career in theater. From 1954 to 1956, he appeared on daytime’s The Guiding Light and, seven years later, portrayed a character named Chris on a Naked City episode. In 1964, he officially changed his first name to Christopher, having been credited as Ronnie up to this point.

American actor Christopher in a theatre dressing room during the stage production of 'The Unknown Soldier and His Wife', by Peter Ustinov, New York City, 1967. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American actor Christopher in a theatre dressing room during the stage production of ‘The Unknown Soldier and His Wife’, 1967.Getty

Theater and made-for-TV movies kept him busy, and the 70s saw Walken off-Broadway and on. After The Anderson Tapes, he was cast in his first starring role, 1972’s The Mind Snatchers, playing a sociopathic US Soldier in Germany.

Christopher Walken, 1973
Christopher Walken, 1973Getty

Walken followed it with 1976’s Next Stop Greenwich Village and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977). Also in 1977, he had a minor role in in horror film The Sentinel. The, a year later, he played a young Pennsylvania steelworker who is emotionally destroyed by the Vietnam War in The Deer Hunter, in which he scooped up an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Christopher Walken, 1973
Christopher Walken, 1973Getty

The 1980s and beyond

His first film of the 1980s was the controversial Michael Cimino Western, Heaven’s Gate, and the following year he surprised both audiences and critics alike with his intricate tap-dancing striptease in the musical Pennies From Heaven. In quick succession came Who Am I This Time?, The Dead Zone and Brainstorm, the latter alongside Natalie Wood.

Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter, 1980
Christopher Walken, The Deer Hunter, 1980Getty

Walken dyed his iconic hair blond to play James Bond villain Max Zorin in 1985’s A View to a Kill, the 14th 007 adventure, and the next year starred in At Close Range as a crime boss. Biloxi Blues, The Milagro Beanfield War, Communion, Homeboy and Puss in Boots rounded out the busy 80s.

The actor in 1983
Christopher Walken, 1983Getty

Along with art house and big budget films in the 90s, his major film during this time was opposite Dennis Hopper in True Romance with a script by Quentin Tarantino, who would cast him in 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

Throughout the second half of the 90s, it was easy to see many of Walken’s other captivating screen roles, demonstrating the diversity of his range and even his droll comedic talents.

He also starred in two music videos in the 90s. The first was as the Angel of Death in Madonna’s 1993 Bad Girl, and the second was in Skid Row’s Breakin’ Down video.

The actor in 1983
Christopher Walken, 1983Getty

Walken, however, will always be remembered for those “The Continental” comedy sketches for SNL that first aired in 1990, where he is a suave mustached ladies man dressed in a smoking jacket, who can’t seem to say or do anything to keep women from leaving his apartment.

The sketches are always shot from the woman’s point of view, so we never see her face, just her gloved arms as she pushes him out of her way. Besides his “champagna,” “The Continental” sketches often featuring him uttering his catchphrase, “Wow! Wowie-wow-wow-wow.”

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