Lasse sends along a translation of a Danish interview from ‘Troldspejlet’, a Danish TV show: Lee talks LOTR – for instance some of the scenes that were shot but never made it to the screen – and a little of his love of fantasy in general. The interviewer also tries to get him to talk of his roles as count Dracula and other classic horror characters some 50+ years ago – this seems to annoy him a bit, as he was never payed much for acting in these films, which on the other hand earned quite a sum for the film companies!
The show that ran the interview is called “Troldspejlet” which translates into something like “The Magic Mirror” and is a much loved weekly show that has existed since 1989 telling news of books/films of fantasy and sci-fi as well as computer games.
Christopher Lee is among the actors who have been supplying us with horror, thriller and fantasy adventures on the silver screen for the longest period. We may know him best as Saruman in the Lord of The Rings films and as Count Dooku in the Star Wars films, but actually he has performed in more than 260 films since the start of his carreer in 1948. Thus he has played both The Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster and not least his memorable interpretation of the Dracula character in a large number of films in the period of 1958-1973.
Troldspejlet [‘The Troll’s Mirror’ or ‘The Magic Mirror’] met Christopher Lee in “The DR City” in Copenhagen in the spring of 2009, in connection with his performance reading from the work of Tolkien.
Name: Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
Born: Maj 27. 1922
Intro by Jakob Stegelmann: One of the very big characters of fantasy movies visited Copenhagen this spring, on the occasion of a Tolkien concert, here in the concert hall of DR. Soon rumors were spreading that the great man was in the house, and all of a sudden – contrary to expectation – we got an opportunity to do an interview with him. We didn’t let that chance slip, and here he is; whether you know him as Count Dooku, Dracula, Saruman, or just Christopher Lee!
Jakob Stegelmann: Christopher Lee was born in 1922, so it would seem resonable if he had long since retired; but he didn’t, and he keeps on working with new parts and new performances. This spring he visited the concert hall of DR, where he were to recite Tolkien accompanied by the [the DR] symphony orchestra. He arrived as early as in the morning to inspect the new concert hall that his voice were to fill that same evening.
Christopher Lee’s career started off in the late 1950’s, and he was first noticed when he played the part of the fantastic and dangerous Count Dracula, one of the many monsters that the tiny English film company ’Hammer Films’ revived during that period. He played Dracula first in 1958 and then several times after, but it’s not a role he likes very much to talk about nowadays.
Christopher Lee: ”I’ve seen things written, that I played that part ten or eleven times – I didn’t! I didn’t play that part as often as Sean Connery did Bond, or Roger Moore did Bond, or maybe Peter Sellers in ’The Pink Pather’. They played their parts more than I did.”
Christopher Lee: ”I don’t see the point in talking about something that’s over 50 years ago. At the time – as I’ve always said – at the time, it was very important to me. Very important.
”And it was very succesful. Not for me finacially, but… they didn’t pay us anything… but to the film it made a huge amount of money.
“But – eh… Now people say they’re classics.”
Jakob Stegelmann: The monster films from Christopher Lee’s youth are classics, and they’re still worshipped by fans all over the World. And he didn’t just play Dracula; he was also Frankenstein’s Monster – and The Mummy.
Many of the great film instructors of our time saw Christopher Lee being monster in their childhood, and now they’ve brought him out for new, maybe even better, parts. George Lucas gave him a fantastic villain part in the Attack of The Clones, the second film in the Star Wars saga, where Christopher Lee were allowed to fight against none other than the jedi master Yoda.
Count Dooku (Christopher Lee): ”It is obvious that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of The Force, but by our skills with a light saber!”
Dr. Wilbur Wonka (Christopher Lee): ”Caramels!”
Jakob Stegelmann: Director Tim Burton is also crazy about Christopher Lee.
In ’Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ he was given yet another evil part as the father of Willy Wonka.
Dr. Wilbur Wonka (Christopher Lee): ”Lollipops! – What we call ’Cavities on a stick’!”
Jakob Stegelmann: But among these many new parts maybe the one with the most substance is that which he was hired to do by Peter Jackson. The wizard Saruman is central for ’The Lord of The Rings’, and after this film version it will be hard to imagine anybody else playing the powerful wizard turned evil.
Christopher Lee: ”I wish it had been possible to explain why, he became like that, because, when Gandalf says ’I will go and see the head of my order; Saruman! He will know what to do’… He gets on a horse… You hear my voice saying ’And Gandalf the Gray is coming to me for advice’, and then he arrives; I walk down the steps; and he looks at me and he says ’Saruman!’ you know; very respectfully. And I say, well ’My dear friend’ – you know; I seem to be completely normal. And friendly.
”But at one particular point in our walk through the garden, I begin to show signs… that I’m not… a good man. I’m asking strange questions. Giving him strange answers. And then, in… When we actually shot it, there were orks in my garden. And Gandalf said ’Orks?! In Isengaard?’ And Saruman sort of – phft – ’Ah, well, I mean, you know – they jus’ work for me, you know’ – and so and so. But that was all. But that was never shown in the films. Ever.”
Saruman (Christopher Lee): ”Sauron has regained much of his former strength.”
Jakob Stegelmann: Saruman would have been in the last LOTR film as well, because he is in the book – but it turned out there were no room for him!
Christopher Lee: ”They told me – which I thought was rather strange – ’We would’ve been worried about putting it in, eh…’ Well after the first five minutes of the third film – because everybody would think it was a continuation of The Two Towers, where you see me and Wormtounge on the balcony, looking horrified because everything is being destroyed, and eh…
”They said ’Well, we thought, if we put it in it would look like a continuation of The Two Towers.’ And I said; ’But it is?’”
Jakob Stegelmann: (Laughs) ”Exactly!”
Saruman (Christopher Lee): ”I want it armed and ready to march within two weeks!”
Jakob Stegelmann: Actually there is a mythical and wizardlike air about Christopher Lee himself, but that may be because he has a very close relationship with the world of fantasy/fairytale.
Christopher Lee: ”I’ve always been interested in Fairyland… in magic… in fantasy… and, ehm… These books are all of that. All of that. That’s why they’re unique.”
Jakob Stegelmann: But what made Christopher Lee so exceptionally good at playing evil parts?
Christopher Lee: ”I find something fascinating about them. I always try to put something in. Somewhere (I don’t think I succeeded in Lord of The Rings) to show they are very lonely people. That they are evil, but they are lonely. And, eh… they can’t help what they do. I don’t think that’s the case with Saruman. I think he took a – he made a choice.
”Why? I don’t know. Maybe because of the Palantír, you know? He could see The One Eye, and gradually it got an influence over him. And suddenly he well… he; he became an obsessed servant of Sauron. But also – which is equally important – I think he suddenly decides ’I want to be The Lord of The Rings.’