”Who is the greatest villain of all time?” demands Christopher Walken, standing aboard a ship’s deck on a Long Island soundstage. An obvious answer would be Walken himself. During his lengthy and mayhem-filled movie career, he has shot an unarmed Dennis Hopper in True Romance, taken out a hit on Andy Garcia in Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, and plotted a watery death for the entire population of Silicon Valley in the Bond movie A View to a Kill. But today something is very different about Walken. Soon after delivering that line he begins to sing — wearing full pirate regalia, a long black wig, and a hook on his left hand.
Walken, 71, is rehearsing his role as Captain Hook in Peter Pan Live! — a follow-up to last year’s Carrie Underwood-starring The Sound of Music Live! — which NBC will broadcast on Dec. 4 with Allison Williams as the boy who won’t grow up. The role requires Walken to sing around half a dozen songs and execute a tap number. But what does a man best known for playing murderers know about killer dance moves? In fact, quite a lot. Walken is not an actor who dabbles in dance but rather a dancer who fell into acting. He studied tap as a kid, toured in a musical, and even strutted his stuff alongside a teenage Liza Minnelli. ”I think that if he had been around in the heyday of MGM, he would have been a big star of musicals on film,” says exec producer Craig Zadan, who is banking in part on Walken’s appeal to generate the same kind of buzz that turned The Sound of Music into a blockbuster event, with nearly 22 million viewers tuning in to enjoy (or, in some cases, ridicule) the program.
As Walken himself puts it in his unmistakable, baroquely punctuated tones: ”I always kind of liked putting on a show, you know.”