Christopher Walken worked as a “trainee lion tamer” when he was 16.

Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken

The 78-year-old actor has dismissed rumours that he ran away from home to join the circus when he was a teenager, as he says he actually got hired as a trainee lion tamer for one summer and knew it wasn’t a job that he could turn down.

He said: “I didn’t run away, I just got a job as a trainee lion tamer. Who’s going to turn that down?”

And speaking about his few months working with a lion named Sheba, he added: “I would come into the cage and wave my whip, and she’d lazily get up and sit like a dog and maybe give a little roar. I like cats a lot. I’ve always liked cats. They’re great company.”

The ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ star also reflected on his childhood growing up in New York as the son of two first-generation immigrants.

He said: “My parents were first-generation immigrants, both of them fortysomething when I was born. They came to America during the Depression and made a life. My dad was a baker from Germany. My mother was from Glasgow.”

Christopher – who was born Ronald Walken – was pushed into acting as a child by his mother, and said he “never got paid a cent” for his early roles.

He explained: “I was one of those kids who was on TV shows. I was in sketches with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Never got paid a cent!”

And although he tried out other career options, nothing has captured his heart quite like acting.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, the ‘Outlaws’ star said: “I love to work – that’s one of the reasons I didn’t have children – and I probably won’t ever retire.

“I’ve never had hobbies, just a strong work ethic like my father. Tennis? Swimming? Golf? They never did it for me. Acting is really what I love. I don’t really like to go out of the house unless I’m working.”

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