Christopher Walken: Now a voice of calm

Actor Christopher Walken says he is nervous, apprehensive, cautious . . . about everything.
CBS News

(CBS News) Christopher Walken has been a "reel character" in more than 100 films and TV shows - and even in music videos. The 2001 video for the song "Weapon of Choice" was typical for an actor who has made a career out of playing one real character after another. But he played it straight when he sat down with Tracy Smith for some Questions and Answers:

"I think people would be surprised that you're scared of things like flying," said Smith.

"Yeah, just, it makes me very uncomfortable," Christopher Walken said.

"What else are you scared of?"

"I'm scared of everything," he replied. "I think it's only sensible to be that way. Not s - not scared, not scared, but nervous about, apprehensive, cautious."

Well, "cautious" might not be the first word that comes to mind for an actor known for going all out.

In a single scene, Christopher Walken can be terrified - and terrifying.

He's been hysterical . . . and "hysterical."

In fact, in more than a hundred movies, there are few things Walken hasn't been - and few roles, it seems, he's ever turned down.

"People have said to me, 'You know, you've made certain choices and so on - interesting choices, terrible choices,' whatever they think. But the fact is I don't make choices and I - I - I - I never have, when it comes to working. I take the best thing that comes next.

"There's no hobbies, there's no kids. So going to work is kind of it. It's what I do."

And he's been doing it just about forever. Born in Queens, N.Y., 1943, Walken started dancing at age 3.

He worked in a bakery owned by his immigrant parents. He says listening to them talk gave Walken his halting speaking style.

"Both my parents had heavy accents, and so did everybody they knew. It's a rhythm thing - people who speak English where they have to hesitate and think of the right word. And I think it rubbed off."

It didn't hurt: In 1963 he landed a part in a revival of the musical "Best Foot Forward," with a teenaged Liza Minnelli. Other stage roles followed.

By the early '70s, he was working on the big screen, with a major role in "The Anderson Tapes" ("America, man. It's so beautiful I want to eat it!).

He had a breakout moment when Woody Allen cast him in 1977's "Annie Hall," as Annie's bizarre brother, Duane.

And the following year, it all took off, with an Oscar-winning turn as a tormented, small-town boy sent to war in "The Deer Hunter."

But if Christopher Walken's on-screen persona says "unstable," his real life is more fairy tale. He's lived in the same house in Wilton, Conn., for decades - and has been married to the same woman, Georgianne, since 1969.

"I've been married for, you know, nearly 50 years!" he laughed.

"That's fantastic. No kids, why no kids?" asked Smith.

"I don't know, just - kids are a miracle, it just never happened."

"Did you want 'em?"

"No!" he laughed.

His offspring, it would appear, are his movies.

But what does he feel when a movie gets panned?

"You know, it's hard. And I, I read reviews. I'm very interested in what people think and what they say. No, I take it very seriously. You know, I want to know. 'Cause it has to do with, you know, my future."