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#TheUnknownHustle: Christopher Walken

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Michael Ochs Archives / Handout

When you're trying to break into an industry, you'll do just about anything to get your foot in the door. Or, in this case, the cage.

 

When Hollywood legend Christopher Walken was 16 years old, he auditioned for a traveling circus after spotting a posting for the job in a trade paper ("That’s where I got most of my work in those days," he told Indiewire). Walken got the part and soon found out that his duties that summer included a bit of light "lion taming."

 

As dangerous as it sounds, Walken described the whole ordeal as a “gimmick.” In a highly orchestrated act, he would appear on stage as the “son” of the actual lion tamer and owner of the circus, Terrell Jacobs.

 

“I had an identical outfit, and he would do this big act with a dozen big cats," he said in an interview with Indiewire. "And then he would send them all out at the end and just leave this one old girl, and I would come in with my whip and I’d go like that and she’d sit up. But she was really more like a dog. It wasn’t really lion taming. She was very sweet."

 

Walken went on to reveal that the lion's name was Sheba. "Old girl. Very nice. She’d come and bump your leg. Like a house cat," he said.

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