It’s been a while since we’ve done anyone with quite so many iconic roles to choose from. Not so far back as the last person I profiled from the movie that gives us today’s image, but a while. When Graham and I were discussing who I was going to write about, he kept referring to Christopher Lloyd as “Doc Brown.” When I said it wasn’t the image I was going to use, he said, “Oh, Judge Doom.” And, as I was searching for the right picture, we both agreed that I could just as easily have gone with Fester Addams. And I’m not even a Taxi fan!
His work has always zigzagged wildly in quality. His first film was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’s one of the gamblers in Eight Men Out. He’s got a minor role in The Onion Field, is buried under Klingon makeup for Star Trek III, and is one of the many random people to be in Buckaroo Banzai.
On the other hand, he’s probably the only person to appear in both Foodfight! and The Ooogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. All he’d need would be Delgo to make the trifecta, but he seems to have missed that. He is, poor soul, in both Piranha 3D and Piranha 3DD. And so forth. I don’t want to embarrass the man, though it appears he’s completely impervious to the very concept, given some of his movies.
His TV history is equally unusual. His first TV appearance was as Tsar Alexander I in The Adams Chronicles, playing the guy for whom John Quincy Adams was alleged by Andrew Jackson supporters to have procured American virgins. (I love that story.) Of course there’s Taxi, and of course there are episodes of Numb3rs and Spin City that reference other roles he’s played. And, it seems, his most recent appearance is in a Funny or Die presentation of Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie. Which . . . he’s playing Doc Brown, apparently?
At a guess, he’s another guy who will just take the paycheck. There are all kinds of reasons for that. Robert Downey, Jr., apparently was told by his wife that he’s less likely to slip back into substance abuse. Christopher Walken just gets lazy and wants to keep forcing himself to work all the time so he’ll work at all. Some people have bills—or, presumably, are paying for their substance abuse problems. I don’t know what the story is here. Maybe the roles are just funny to him; there’s nothing wrong with that. I can even admire it, to a certain extent.
I mean, he’s from money; his grandfather was one of the founders of Texaco. His mom was a philanthropist. So it’s hopefully not needing the money; you’d have to have burned through a lot to be out of money in those circumstances. I think we’ll stick to “funny to him” outside other evidence; it’s not like that’s improbable anyway. And it’s more cheerful than “he has lousy taste in scripts.”