It intrigues me that Christopher Walken’s latest film — which just signed for North American release by Steelyard Pictures — is titled The Power Of Few. I’ve never heard of this distributor, and maybe the film is a cinematic treat, but I’m reasonably certain this movie will come and go with little fanfare. The title is memorable because it summarizes perfectly how I wish iconic actors like Walken would run their careers. I was thinking about this over the weekend, when I again watched Django Unchained and observed how the whole movie changed from the moment that Samuel L. Jackson first came into view as the awful plantation slave patriarch Stephen. I find it one of the most memorable performances I’ve seen in the last five years, a villain to rival any Spaghetti Western antagonist ever, and am amazed how Jackson disappeared into a fully fleshed character as completely as Daniel Day-Lewis did with  Lincoln and Joaquin Phoenix did in The Master, and Denzel Washington did in Flight. All three of those guys got nominated for Oscars, and Sam did not, even though it’s his best performance since Pulp Fiction. It’s easy to say it came down to Christoph Waltz’s Best Supporting Actor nomination (Leo DiCaprio was also snubbed), but I think a factor is that Jackson works so often that Oscar voters discount his great performances because it’s just one of the seven films he did in that calender year. Contrast that to Day-Lewis. When he works, you know it’s a special event, there is high anticipation and he either wins or gets nominated almost each and every time out.

To me, Walken is in the same class as Jackson, and so is Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins, and so would Sean Connery and Gene Hackman if anybody could coax those guys out of retirement. Kevin Costner is knocking on the door as well.

De Niro got an Oscar nom for Silver Linings Playbook, and it seemed to work in reverse; it seemed to help that this was the first movie in a long time where the material wasn’t beneath his vast talent, and that he proved he still had it.

As for Walken, I was at the Toronto Film Festival premiere of the Martin McDonagh-directed Seven Psychopaths last fall, and observed something rare. Gifted with dialogue from In Bruges‘ McDonagh, Walken had people cheering to just about every line he delivered, in his singular style. I wish guys like him would save themselves for just the really good stuff (like De Niro and Pacino in Heat and De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook), instead of leaving a trail of cinematic turds along the way.

Do a movie a year; take up golf, and work that putter until the good roles from talented writer-directors like Quentin Tarantino, McDonagh, Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O Russell or a handful of others come in. Actually, Sam Jackson is a prolific golfer, but when I interviewed him for Playboy years ago, he said a crowning moment in his career came when he asked for and started to receive “greens fees” and temporary memberships to the best golf courses in whatever city he works in, so he could play whenever he wasn’t shooting. The man just likes to work, and even then his reps were begging him to be more selective. A final note about Sam: I’ve seen recent attention paid to “leaked” Internet video from an interview where Jackson tried to get some interviewer to say the “N” word or he wouldn’t discuss its use in Django Unchained. The implication was that Sam was somehow difficult or confrontational. I’m telling you, if you don’t walk away from Sam Jackson without getting the interview of your life, it’s because you are no good at doing interviews.

I remember sitting at the Sunset Marquis for hours with Sam, who’s funny as hell (he pulled up in a new Porsche, and said straight up that he’d bought stick shift because his daughter could only drive automatic), and had endless colorful stories about films and life. It knocked me out of my chair when this spectacularly cool guy talked plainly about his rough early days as a crack addict and how, as a party trick back in those days, he would put a match up one nostril and pull it out of the other because he had snorted away all the cartilage in between. When I saw that journalistic “stand-off,” it seemed to me that this was a byproduct of the Internet age, where a testy interview exchange with Jackson or Tarantino (also a dream interview subject, who bounces off the walls with fresh ideas and anecdotes and an encyclopedic film brain) seems to now have more buzz-building currency than actual good conversation.

That brings me back around to The Power Of Few. Everybody is so overexposed these days — how about the breathless “exclusive” in The Wrap last week about how some other journalistic outlet was doing a big story on Legendary Pictures, its future at Warner Bros and the Godzilla lawsuit, and then you read The New York Times story today and there is nothing in there that we didn’t already know except that Thomas Tull played minor-league baseball? I think these actors are hurting their brands and their legacies by making too damn many movies beneath their talent, in a Kardashian age where it’s easy to believe that if people aren’t being seen, they don’t exist.

Day-Lewis admirably proves there’s a lot to be said for the idea that less is more. Or maybe I should have another cup of coffee and resign myself to the fact that this is just how it is now and even iconic treasures like Walken, De Niro, Jackson and Pacino get insecure like everybody else and sometimes say yes to work that is beneath them because they’re afraid the phone is going to stop ringing.

Here’s the release on The Power Of Few:

Steelyard Pictures has announced its North American distribution deal for Leone Marucci’s “The Power of Few” with Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment. The sci-fi action feature stars Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Q’orianka Kilcher.

The deal includes all North American ancillary rights with Steelyard distributing theatrically, limited platform release opens on February 15th. “We’re excited to bring this unique theatrical experience to moviegoers across the US” Steelyard’s Roy Kurtluyan remarked, “And we’re thrilled to have a partner in Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment. As the largest independent, they clearly understand how to maximize exposure within a shifting distribution landscape.” Alex Barder of Strategic Film Partners negotiated the deal for the producers with Sam Toles, Vice President of Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment. Arclight Film is repping internationally.

Opening Dates & Locations
February 15th

Columbus, OH – AMC Lennox 24

Youngstown, OH – Boardman Tinseltown

February 22nd

Los Angeles, CA – Rave Cinemas 18, Howard Hughes

New Orleans, LA – The Theatres at Canal Place

Baton Rouge, LA – Cinemark Perkins Rowe

March 1st

Philadelphia, PA – UA Riverview Plaza 17

Boulder, CO – Century Theatre

March 8th

Additional locations to be announced