Actually, he was more of a lion tamer's assistant -- not even Christopher "Makes Broadway Dance Moves Intimidating" Walken could leap, unharmed, directly into the mouth of a great cat straight out of junior high. But that doesn't mean he just did the sweeping up -- it only means that he trained one lion at a time instead of several. According to Walken, it was "more like a big dog than anything."
Think that's an understatement?
Walken found the position advertised in the help wanted section and applied simply because "I've always liked cats."
Al Barry / Stringer / Hulton Archive / Getty
Young Walken, pictured here with other things he "likes."
That's like saying you jumped into the volcano because you do well with heat.
Apparently, most of the heavy lion wrangling was done by the owner of the circus, with Walken posing as his son. When the tamer was finished, he'd leave the teenage Walken alone with "Sheba" and Walken would crack his whip to make her do tricks. But as much as you'd like to envision Christopher Walken fighting a lion with nothing but a bit of fancy rope, it was all for show: In reality, Walken and Sheba were best friends. And that's ... actually way more fun to envision anyway. Get on it, screenwriters.
Here's one of Walken during his lion tamer days. You're welcome.