All eyes are on Christopher Walken this week after Los Angeles detectives reopened the case of Natalie Wood's mysterious death 30 years ago, which the coroner ruled as an accidental drowning. The 68-year old actor has hired to a lawyer to represent him in the investigation, and it seems likely he will be re-interviewed as a witness.
Walken was the only other guest on Splendour, the yacht Robert Wagner and his wife Natalie Wood Wagner had taken out to Catalina Island that Thanksgiving weekend in 1981. The captain, Dennis Davern, has come forward to admit that he lied in the initial police investigation, and has written a book about the tragedy claiming that an argument with Robert Wagner directly contributed to Natalie's death.
Davern has not aimed any accusations at Walken, but some are finding it easy to imagine Walken too was not entirely forthcoming in the immediate aftermath of Wood's drowning.
Walken has made a career playing offbeat, often diabolical characters. His IMBD bio says he has a reputation for playing mentally unbalanced characters on-screen -- will that reputation hurt his chances of coming out clean in the new investigation?
In one of Walken's earliest high-profile film roles -- after having established himself as a respected stage actor -- he played alongside Diane Keaton as her (amusingly) dark and disturbed brother, who fantasizes about having a fiery car crash, in Woody Allen's Annie Hall. Shortly after, he won an Academy Award for his performance as Nick in The Deer Hunter, a Vietmam soldier driven to madness after being tortured in an enemy camp.
Since then he's played the bloodthirsty Hessian Horseman (Sleepy Hollow), a sociopathic angel (The Prophecy and Saturday Night Live), a scheming drifter (Envy), a mob boss (True Romance), and James Bond's nemesis in A View to a Kill.
Walken once said to a journalist, I am the malevolent WASP. When The Comfort of Strangers director Paul Schrader was lighting him for a scene, he famously said, I don't need to be made to look evil. I can do that on my own.
Though Walken has since come to tire of his sinister image -- telling his agent a few years ago that he wanted to play a nice guy with a wife and a family and a dog and a house -- he will likely always be known as someone with a flair for the villainous.
Since the Natalie Wood case officially reopened on Friday, Christopher Walken has surged in popularity on Google and social media sites. A look at a Christopher Walken Twitter search gives a clue about how Walken is faring in the court of public opinion.
whodunnit? Christopher Walken to play himself in movie version, someone tweeted Saturday.
Personally, I don't want to live in a world where at least once a year Christopher Walken can't murder the starlet of his choosing, tweeted another.
Knock knock. Who's there? Christopher Walken. Christopher Walken who? Christopher Walken away from the scene of the crime, another Twitter user wrote.
Though neither Walken nor Wagner have been named suspects in Wood's death, there are enough questions about the mysterious drowning to cast either of them in a suspicious light. It is well known that Natalie Wood was terrified of water, which undermines a theory that she would have gone alone at night to untie the boat's dinghy. Also, neither Wagner nor Walken were reportedly forthcoming about an argument they had earlier that Saturday night. Also, where was Walken's wife? He has been married to Georgianne Walken since 1969; the successful casting director and sometimes-actress has a small role in Brainstorm, which Natalie and Walken were filming at the time of the accident.
Unfortunate bits of trivia about Walken have been circulating since the investigation reopened: When he was 15, Walken worked briefly as a lion tamer. That Fat Boy Slim video he did in 2000 was for a song called Weapon of Choice. And he's currently on set filming a movie called Seven Psychopaths.
Walken has not made a public statement about Natalie Wood's death since the case was reopened (though an impersonator has.) His last known comments on the tragedy were made in a 1997 Playboy magazine interview.
Anybody there saw the logistics -- of the boat, the night, where we were, that it was raining -- and would know exactly what happened, Walken told Playboy Magazine. You hear about things happening to people -- they slip in the bathtub, fall down the stairs, step off the curb in London because they think that the cars come the other way -- and they die. You feel you want to die making an effort at something; you don't want to die in some unnecessary way.
What happened that night only she knows, because she was alone, Walken continued. She had gone to bed before us, and her room was at the back. A dinghy was bouncing against the side of the boat, and I think she went out to move it. There was a ski ramp that was partially in the water. It was slippery - I had walked on it myself. She had told me she couldn't swim; in fact, they had to cut a swimming scene from [Brainstorm]. She was probably half asleep, and she was wearing a coat.
Marilyn Wayne, who was on another yacht docked about 90 feet away from Splendour at the time, had previously and continues to insist she heard a woman crying for help that Saturday night, saying she was drowning. Wayne says the cries went on for 25 minutes.