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The Kickabout with Johnny Vaughan 11am - 1pm
28 April 2021, 20:09
The story behind the Hollywood actor's show-stopping appearance in the classic Fatboy Slim video.
Music video director Spike Jonze has a remarkable portfolio. The film-maker - whose real name is Adam Spiegel - has been behind the camera for such classic clips as Bjork's It's Oh So Quiet, Weezer's Buddy Holly and Beastie Boys' Sabotage.
But it was his video for Fatboy Slim's Weapon Of Choice in 2001 that gained a huge amount of attention. Was that REALLY enigmatic actor Christopher Walken dancing through a hotel lobby? And did they actually fly him across the ceiling on a wire? Surely not?
Walken had gained a reputation as one of Hollywood's most intense actors, thanks to roles in True Romance, Pulp Fiction and The Deer Hunter. But Spike Jonze knew something we didn't - Walken had trained as a dancer at the Washington Dance Studio and for a time, it seemed that he'd forge a career in that side of show business. Instead, he found success as an actor.
But the dancing never went away, and in 1981, Walken starred in a movie version of the musical drama Pennies From Heaven and would make regular appearances on TV's Saturday Night Live that offered him a chance to strut his stuff... which is where Spike Jonze saw him.
Jonze had made a previous video for Fatboy Slim, the infamous Praise You, which featured the made-up "Torrance Community Dance Group" throwing some shapes while a hidden camera looked on.
"I wanted to do dancing again, but I didn't want to do lo fi amateur dancing, I wanted to do a real production," Jonze told The Nine Club in 2018. "I wrote up this treatment, it was really simple. When my dad would come to town, he'd stay at one of those hotels by the airport, those Marriotts. So I just imagined my dad at all these hotels, travelling around the country, the mundane, repetitive, numbing quality of that. The idea was like the fantasy that kind of comes out of that."
Norman Cook recalled how getting Walken for the Weapon Of Choice video came about: "He said to Spike, 'I would love to get my dancing on film while I'm still young enough to do it'. So Spike went outside and phoned me and said 'Mr. Walken tap-dancing in the video' and I was like 'Yes'."
For Christopher Walken it was a dream come true. He later admitted: "I suppose musicals have always been my favourite thing — I'm talking about movie musicals. If somebody asks me if I want to go see a show, my choice is almost always musicals. I think if I was in the movies at an earlier time, I might have been in a lot of musical movies."
The video was shot at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Los Angeles just before Christmas 2000. Norman Cook was due to make a cameo in the clip, but his wife Zoe Ball was just about to give birth to their son Woody, so he stayed at home in the UK.
The musician was delighted with the result. He told Higher Frequency: "I think it's full of irony, and to see an actor that I really admire but who's famous for playing psychopaths, to see him do that silly un-psychopathic dancing made me smile and made everyone else smile."
For Christopher Walken, making the video was a breeze. "It's a very catchy tune," he said of Weapon Of Choice. "It's good for tap because it has a deliberate almost drum-like beat. They say tap dancers are like drummers."
The finished video for Weapon Of Choice went on to win six gongs at the 2001 MTV Music Video Awards and also the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Music Video. It's also notched up over 54 million YouTube views.
Now, in 2021, the original footage has been given a restoration in 4k High Definition, allowing fans to enjoy Walken's moves all over again.
Oliver Maingay of Vanderquest masterminded the overhaul of the video: “When we first started discussing the possibility of a 4K remake of Weapon Of Choice, after the initial rush of excitement, thoughts moved on to the practical side and the big question of 'Just how much was done in post-production vs actually being shot at the time?'."
Once the original 35mm film was scanned in, the restorers were able to remove some of the more obvious glimpses of wires holding up Walken, plus the giant rig used to fly the actor around the empty hotel. They even superimposed a portrait of Fatboy Slim on to a blank wall.