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11th Apr 2021

20 years on, Weapon Of Choice is probably still the best music video ever made

Rory Cashin

Two decades since Christopher Walken showed off his mad tap-dancing skills.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.

Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’.

The White Stripes’ ‘Hardest Button to Button’.

Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

They’re all fair entries into the discussion of greatest music video of all time, but they all stop short of what sounds like the dullest music video description of them all: A businessman, overhearing the song on the maid’s radio, takes to dancing in the hotel lobby.

Released in April 2001, as the third single from Fatboy Slim’s Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars album, the very simple concept of the usually-terrifying Christopher Walken showing off his natural tap-dancing skills for ‘Weapon of Choice’ still brings a smile whenever remembered, and make for a must rewatch whenever the opportunity arises.

Such as right now:

Clip via Skint Records

1999 saw director Spike Jonze make his big screen directorial debut with Being John Malkovich, but that same year, he directed the music video for ‘Praise You’ by Fatboy Slim and the electro-DJ was hungry to get back to work with Jonze as soon as possible.

And according to those behind the scenes, Walken’s involvement in the video all came about quite easily, and quite serendipitously.

Fatboy Slim told Higher Frequency the following when they asked how they managed to land Walken for the part:

“He volunteered. Spike Jonze (the director) had [been] a friend of years, and he met Spike before he became an actor and he trained as a dancer. 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’. 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.”

Originally, it was to be Fatboy Slim appearing in the mostly-empty Marriott Hotel (now the L.A. Grand Hotel Downtown), as the background cleaner using the hoover, but his wife gave birth to their son the same week that the video was being shot.

Walken told The Hollywood Interview about his memories of working on the video:

“It’s a very catchy tune. The big thing about that for me was to work with Spike Jonze. He’s terrific. And young. He asked me to do that based on my work on a movie 20 years ago, Pennies from Heaven.

“The best thing about that for me was I’m going to be 84 years old [kidding] and at this point [it’s nifty] to be able to be in a music video and actually have kids think it’s cool. 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. But certainly MTV and music videos, some are brilliantly done, little movies.”

“[Electronic music] is good for tap because it has a deliberate almost drum-like beat. They say tap dancers are like drummers.”

The video went on to win six awards at the MTV VMAs that year, with Walken himself going home with the award for Best Choreography. In 2002, a poll by VH1 named ‘Weapon of Choice’ the greatest music video of all time (proving his immense talents, ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys, also directed by Jonze, came in at number two).

And now, here we are, two decades to the day later, and while the golden age of the music video has come and gone, it is safe to say that Walken, Jonze, Fatboy Slim and everyone else involved in ‘Weapon of Choice’ have left us with four minutes of absolute magic.

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