A versatile character actor whose intense demeanor and slightly off-kilter delivery served him well in both comedies and dramas, Christopher Walken was at once one of the busiest and most respected actors of his generation, appearing in as many as five films in a year while still finding time for stage and occasional television work.
Walken was born Ronald Walken in Queens, NY, on March 31, 1943, the youngest of three sons of Paul and Rosalie Walken; Paul ran a bakery, while Rosalie was convinced her sons had talent and was determined they take advantage of it. Ronald landed his first job in front of a camera at the age of 14 months when he posed for a calendar photo with a pair of kittens. Like his siblings, he received dance lessons as a youngster, and, by the age of ten, was making frequent appearances on television and radio shows, and was a regular on a short-lived sitcom, The Wonderful John Acton. Ronald and his brothers also enrolled at New York's Professional Children's School, and he spent a summer as a junior lion tamer with a circus, later recalling that the lion was quite old and docile.