Face To Face With The Masters
Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.
Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+
Interview with Sir Christopher Lee - Count Dooku in Episode II
Mark Dermul, Publisher of the Autograph Bounty Hunter (www.bountyhunter.tk
) and PR Manager of Teekay-421 (the Belgian Star Wars Fan Club - www.teekay-421.be
) have granted TFN the right to republish a few interviews they've done in the past few months right here on TFN. First up the duo was able to interview Christopher Lee, one of Star Wars' best villians.
Christopher Lee became world famous for his role as a dark and gruesome count. Either biting or battling with a lightsaber or two, he’s more than we bargained for when we met him in London on 26 October 2002. It will be a day long remembered...
You have touched the minds of millions with your performance as Count Dooku. How familiar were you with the films?
“I had seen them all ! I naturally was amazed at the brilliance of George Lucas. You have to remember that in the case of a film like Lord of the Rings, they were taken from books that had already been written. What makes Star Wars so extraordinary is that all the stories, the special effects, the whole concept, comes from the mind of one man : George Lucas. The books come afterwards. The vision is quite amazing. I wonder what happens in the next one. I do not know what happens to me. I do not know what happens to anybody. All I know is that Anakin marries Padmé Amidala and they have two children. These are subsequently played in films that are already made, by Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. I’m wondering how George is going to structure the story whereby Anakin turns into Darth Vader. And how Ewan McGregor turns into Alec Guinness. It will have to be very convincing. And it’s very exciting to be a part of this. It will be extraordinary to see how it’s done. And it has to be done, for it’s the last film of the six.
There is a moment in AOTC where Anakin comes back. And just very briefly he shows the rather brutal, savage side of his character, when he comes back. He says ‘I killed all of them… all of them’ and that means men, women an children. And that is probably more or less the indication of what is to come in terms of him becoming the darkest character in the story.
As far as I am concerned, I am a new face. Nobody knows who I am. Nobody – as far as I know – has talked about me and suddenly I appear as this renegade Jedi who has decided to leave the Order. And he will set up his own galactic force and of course carries on from there. Right at the end of the film, I say to my master, very briefly ‘The war has begun’.”
Upon showing him the photograph of Count Dooku that he will sign for the Bounty Hunter, Sir Christopher seems surprised.
“This picture is from AOTC, and I seem to have a very nice expression on my face, which is very unusual as far as my character is concerned. I think that this particular picture was either taken between takes, during rehearsal or whatever, or it is just possible that it is part of a scene which I did with Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen. They are brought before me and in a sense they are on trial. And I’m saying if they don’t do what I want they will be in big, big trouble, which of course then happens and they are taken into the arena, where they have to fight. So it’s just possible. It could be from a scene which was cut, which I regret very much, for it was a good scene.”
A long time ago…
Mr Lee was born in Belgravia, London on May 27th 1922. His birth certificate says ‘Christopher Frank Carandini Lee’. Son to a Colonel in the 60th King’s Royal Rifle Corps and a noted Edwardian beauty by the name of Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, this boy was obviously destined for greatness. When your family tree includes the Cardinal Consalvi (Napoleontic era) and Niccolo Carandini, the first Italian ambassador to Britain after World War II and subsequently President of Alitalia, one can only bow the head in respect. Mr Lee was educated at Summer Fields preparatory school, Eton College and Wellington College. He was a classical scholar in Greek and Latin.
After leaving school, he earned 1 pound a week as an office boy and messenger in London. He later joined the Royal Air Force and Special Forces, where he was decorated for distinguished service. He served all five years of World War II and held the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
Mr Lee has been married for almost 40 years to Danish model and painter Gitte Kroencke. Mrs Lee was a model for Balenciaga, Balmain, Chanel and Christian Dior. They have one daughter, Christina, who was born in Switzerland. After living some years in Switzerland and California, they now live in London.
Enter the movies…
In 1947, he joined the Rank Organization and thus entered the realm of film, music and theater, including opera! He sang in 'The Return of Captain Invincible' and recorded several other musical pieces, such as ‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’, ‘The Soldiers’ Tale’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf’.
Directors with whom Christopher Lee worked include: John Huston, Raoul Walsh, Joseph Losey, George Marshall, Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, Michael Powell, Edward Molinaro, Jerome Savary, Billy Wilder, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Tim Burton, John Landis, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Andrei Konchalovsky, Peter Jackson and of course… George Lucas. He has filmed in Russia, France, Germany, Spain and many other countries all over the world, appearing in over 250 films and television productions. Today, Jean Diamond at the London Management Talent Agency (UK) represents Mr Lee.
The best known productions of Sir Christopher Lee are:
• A Tale of Two Cities
• The Mummy
• The Wicker Man
• The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
• The Three and The Four Musketeers
• James Bond: The Man with The Golden Gun (of which the author was his cousin Ian Fleming)
• Airport '77
• Gremlins II
• Sleepy Hollow
• The Fellowship of the Ring
• Attack of the Clones
• The Two Towers
He considers hosting the "Saturday Night Live" show in 1978 (with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman and Jane Curtin) to be one of the highlights of his career. It’s one of the best-received episodes.
“Billy Wilder is the greatest actor I’ve worked with. But the others are brilliant as well, such as Joe Dante, Pete Jackson, George Lucas and many others. It has been a great privilege and honor to work with them. But the ones I would like to work with are Sidney Lumet, Sidney Pollack, Clint Eastwood and I would really like to make a movie with Peter Weir. But they are all different ! They direct films in different ways. Some people can be very aggressive, some can be very helpful. We all need help. I don’t want to walk in front of the camera and say the lines. I want the director to tell me what kind of lens they are using and such, for it determines your movements. So you have to adjust your performance accordingly. It’s the old familiar story : less is more. The less you do – in certain circumstances – the more effect it will have. And sometimes you have to go over the top. I suppose ‘overact’ is the meaning of the phrase. Some characters you cannot underplay, but Dooku and Saruman are characters you have to underplay ! Pete Jackson said, when directing me as Saruman : ‘Remember, you are not human. Do not make human gestures.’ So you have to think, listen and stand still. Think about what you are saying, listen to what the other people are saying and don’t do anything, unless it has a meaning to the story or the character.”
Is Dooku a come-back or have you never been away?
“You might say that I started to come back again into major productions, starting with Sleepy Hollow. But I’ve made so many low budget movies in the meantime. I did Sleepy Hollow because Tim Burton asked me to. When it comes to LOTR and AOTC, these are of course huge productions. These are enormously succesfull all over the world. In these I play major characters. But I’ve never really been away !”
How do you cope with the bluescreen?
“There was bluescreen in LOTR, but nothing like there was on Star Wars. About 85% was shot on bluescreen for Star Wars. Walls, floor, the complete stage was blue. They need that for technical reasons, which I can not go into, for it’s something I do not understand. They need that to put in the background, what’s behind you, in front of you, besides you. Reading the script, I know what is taking place and where this is supposed to be, but I do not know what it is going to look like and I do not know if I’m going to be surrounded by other people, droids or that I’ll be alone. I have no idea. So when shooting, there is nothing there – and there certainly wasn’t when I had my fight with Yoda ! They have to match what he does after what I’ve done first ! I do the lightsaber moves, after I’m told where Yoda is going to be. So I do not know exactly what he is going to do in the fight. I’ve often been asked the question what it is like to work with bluescreen. Over the years I got quite used to that. The answer is of course that you have to have a very powerful imagination, experience, professional knowledge, powers of invention of your own and you have to have the right instincts. You either have them or you haven’t. If you have them, it’s a great help to everybody.
What else do you need to be an actor? Dedication, devotion. All these elements are vital if you want to make a career as an actor.”
By the sword…
Christopher Lee has appeared in more sword fights in front of the camera than probably any other actor in history has. He did his own fencing in Attack of the Clones. He also did all of his stunts and is an honorary member of three Stuntmen's Unions.
“I’m the world record holder in terms of having sword fights in movies. And I have the scars to proove it ! When I saw AOTC I said to Rick McCallum ‘I didn’t see the double anywhere’ and Rick confirmed that it’s me in all the scenes. Sometimes you need a double, obviously. At my age, I cannot run very fast, so I needed a double for that particular long shot. When it comes to close shots, it has to be the actor. And almost all the fights were close shots. And not easy, to put it mildly.”
It’s a kind of magic…
Saruman the White in Lord of the Rings is the leader of the wizards. Sir Christopher Lee was the logical choice to play this part as many will agree. Not many people know that Christopher is the only member of the cast that has actually met J.R.R. Tolkien.
Links… as in golf links…
His hobbies are travel, opera and golf. His handicap, once scratch, is now eight and he is up to now the only actor made a member of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the oldest golf club in the world founded in 1744. He has had the great fortune to play most of the world's famous courses and is profoundly grateful to have played with virtually all the great golfers of modern times, from James Braid to Jack Nicklaus.
And the winner is…
He has received uncountable awards for his contribution to film from the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Great Britain. He is a Commander Brother of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the world's oldest order. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats as being the actor with the most screen credits to date. He was awarded the London Film Critics Dilys Powell '94 award for his entire career as an actor and for his services to the film industry. He has recently been awarded Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's Birthday's Honours list. Only thing lacking on the mantle now is his Academy Award for best supporting role in Episode II.
There are many pages dedicated to Sir Christopher Lee. First and foremost, you have the autobiography "Tall, Dark and Gruesome", first published by W.H. Allen in 1977 as well as "The Great Villains", "Archives of Evil" and "The Films of Christopher Lee". All of these books can still be found in bookstores.
Dooku or Saruman?
“Dooku is a Jedi. And not very many Jedi have turned their back on the Order. He is the latest one to do so. But he is human and speaks and behaves as one in that galaxy far far away. He has supernatural powers. Both Saruman and Dooku have great powers of magic. But that’s the only similarity between the two. Dooku makes his appearance for the first time in five films. That’s very important to me as an actor. All of a sudden he is there. Who is this man, where does he come from? He’s very much a man of mystery. What will happen in the next one, I have no idea. To be that character is an actor’s dream in many ways.”
Sir Christopher Lee can be found online at www.christopherleeweb.com - a very informative website run by Juan Aneiros, who is his webmaster, but also his son in law. It features forums, articles, autographs, fan packages and information in general. Point your browser that way now!