'Lost' Actor Neil Hopkins: On Doing a Christopher Walken Impression

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Neil Hopkins, who plays Liam Pace on the hit television show "Lost" discusses how he developed his dead-on Christopher Walken impression.

If you're a fan of the hit television show "Lost," you might have seen Neil Hopkins. He plays Liam, drug-addicted rock star brother to Dominic Monaghan's character, Charlie Pace. Though Hopkins has been in only a couple of episodes, he's already developing quite a fan following. In the show, Hopkins does a convincing British accent, but that's not all he can do.

Hopkins happens to be able to do a dead-on Christopher Walken impression. "I've seen many Walken impressions and I think Neil's is probably the best," says Candy Rosenbaum, coordinator for The Online Christopher Walken Fan Club (http://www.WalkenFanClub.com). "Kevin Spacey and Jay Mohr are very, very funny when they do their impressions, but I really think that Neil gets the gestures, the facial expressions and the voice perfectly."

Over the years, young actors have tried to master their Walken impressions. "An actor once commented that Walken's speech pattern is quite possibly one of the hardest 'dialects' you can learn to master, and I think that's probably true," says Rosenbaum. "If you can learn Walken-speak, other dialects might be easier."

Columnist Lawrence Groebel writes, "Like Marlon Brando before him, [Walken] is probably the most parodied actor of his generation. Everyone has a Walken impression they like to perform at parties."

So, how did New Jersey-born Hopkins get to be so good at doing Walken?

He explains:

"I first got into Walken back in high school while watching 'True Romance.' I knew his face from other movies, but it wasn't until then that I learned his name. I thought the movie was all right, but I became obsessed with that scene between him and Dennis Hopper. I'd never seen anything like it before. It was like a little movie within a movie. I'd watch it over and over, memorizing it because I loved it so much. I started reciting it to people, and they would say, 'You sound just like him.' I probably didn't, but I loved that I could accurately imitate something that I thought was so great. I kept doing it over the years whenever people would talk about that movie. I was such a geek!"

Hopkins attended grad school at the American Conservatory Theater, where he wrote his Walken impression into a monologue for a cabaret performance. "It was Walken giving a seminar on acting Shakespeare. I rented 'King of New York' and studied his gestures and walk and all the intricacies of his speech, because I had to do it in front of a big audience. It was a hit and I became known for it there, which was cool."

After graduation, Hopkins moved to Los Angeles to begin his professional career, attending auditions as most actors do. "I read about auditions for this short film called 'Walkentalk,' and they needed someone who could do a great Walken impression. I thought, 'I've got to get this part.' So I read for it and got the part, and then I worked really hard to make it as specific as possible for the film."

Later, "Walkentalk" director Phil Zlotorynski cast Hopkins in the feature- length film "My Big Fat Independent Movie," which pokes fun at some of the best-known indie films. Hopkins plays "The Lanky Man," a role based on Walken's character in 1995's "Wild Side." Hopkins says, "They wrote the part specifically for me, which was flattering." Film Threat's Chris Gore, the producer of Zlotorynski's film, says that Hopkins "does the best Christopher Walken imitation I've ever seen. Since Walken...has appeared in so many independent films, it was natural that we would include a character who would act as a tribute to all of his performances." He adds, "Hopkins nailed it and had the entire crew laughing their asses off."

In a review of the film, Jeannette Catsoulis from the New York Times writes: "'My Big Fat Independent Movie' has a knowing, insider quality that could generate a modest cult following. But the best reasons to see it are Evan Mather's animated title sequence and a dead-on Christopher Walken impersonation by Neil Hopkins."

"If you watch a lot of Walken films, you'd appreciate what Neil does in his impression," says Rosenbaum. "Go rent 'King of New York,' 'Wild Side' and 'Prophecy,' and then get 'My Big Fat Independent Movie' (the short film 'Walkentalk' is included on the two-disc version). Chris Walken is one of a kind, and if you can truly imitate him, you're brilliant."

Hopkins says, "I had seen a lot of very broad Walken impressions that were funny, but I wanted to make mine more accurate." To prepare for his role as The Lanky Man, Hopkins became obsessive. "I rented a ton of his movies and recorded his voice with a portable tape recorder. I'd listen to it in my car wherever I went, trying to match his voice as closely as possible." He laughs, "I probably looked like a total nutcase to other drivers!"

Still, Hopkins is not completely satisfied with his impression. "I'm always trying to make it better, so I love when I get to break it out at auditions. It gets a pretty good laugh and it's great practice. Walken is such an iconic actor. There's really no other impression I know of that gets such a big reaction from people."

Hopkins will appear later this season on the HBO series "Big Love" and in an upcoming Diane Keaton film, "Because I Said So." You can watch clips and get more information about Hopkins on his official Web site:

http://www.NeilHopkins.info.

Editor: Cindy Ley

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