Walken plays against type in 'A Late Quartet'

Christopher Walken waves as he arrives on the red carpet at the gala for the new movie "A Late Quartet" during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Monday Sept. 10, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO - Christopher Walken is well known for playing sinister characters, and relished the chance to take on a "more human" role as a kindly cellist struggling with Parkinson's in "A Late Quartet."

"Absolutely," Walken said at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday when asked if he enjoyed playing against type.

"(He's) this kind of avuncular, decent man who means well. I play a lot of villains."

In "A Late Quartet," Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir join Walken to portray an acclaimed New York City string quartet who have been together for 25 years but are thrown into disarray when their leader becomes ill.

Walken, who is also at the festival with the action-comedy "Seven Psychopaths," says he got pigeon-holed as the bad guy early in his career.

"In 'The Deer Hunter,' you know, I shoot myself in the head and simultaneously 'Annie Hall' came out where I was a suicidal driver," he said during an interview at a downtown nightclub.

"When I got started in the movies, it was a sequence of (characters) who were troubled and, you know, whatever you succeed at in the movies you can get a little bit stuck with because movies are expensive and if something works, chances are you're going to be asked to play something like that again."

He added: "The guy who gets the girl kind of stays that way, and his best friend, and then there's the funny guy, the bad guy. It's so expensive that they kind of like to know what they're getting."

Keener says she experienced the same phenomenon earlier in her career.

"After 'Being John Malkovich' there was a type and then it changed up a little bit after 'Capote' and '40-Year-Old Virgin,'" she said in an interview alongside Walken.

And what was Keener's type?

"There's a word for it, starting with a 'b' and ending with an 'itch.' I'm not fond of the word. You know, I didn't like it," said the actress.

"It's weird to play somebody on a set ... who is not liked because what happened to me is some people thought I was that person."

"A Late Quartet" — directed by Yaron Zilberman — opens Nov. 23.

The Toronto International Film Festival wraps up Sunday.