In the history of Cinefantastique Magazine, Sir Cristopher Lee has appeared on our cover three times, surpassed only by Ray Harryhausen. Interestingly enough, all three of the CFQ covers on Lee (Dracula, The Man With The Golden Gun and The Wicker Man), were also the movies that were given the most play in the film clips shown in the nine-minute tribute to Sir Chris at the BAFTA awards in London on Sunday night.
The BAFTA Fellowship award is quite important, as it puts Mr. Lee in the august company of those talented people who have preceded him: Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Christie, John Barry, Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Hopkins, Terry Gilliam, Dame Judi Dench and last year’s recipient, Vanessa Redgrave.
The award is even more noteworthy because it is the first time an actor in the genre of dread has ever been given such an honor. It is something that eluded past genre superstars, like Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. Of course, directors in the genre, like Spielberg, Lucas and Cameron, our now loaded down with such honors, but sadly horror actors have not been so fortunate.
Since Mr. Lee will turn 89 this coming May, I’m sure everyone reading this will agree, “it’s about time!”
Here is the text of Tim Burton’s BAFTA induction of Mr. Lee, followed by Christopher Lee’s acceptance speech:
The recipient of this years award is an electrifying screen presence, whose work I’ve loved since I was a child. I’ve since had the privilege of working with him several times, starting with Sleepy Hollow, which was itself drawn from the inspiration of his great screen heritage. At six foot-five, he physically towers over those around him, in the same way his screen persona puts all of us in the shade.
The range of his screen performances is truly amazing: From Sherlock Holmes to Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, from Rasputin, to Rochefort in The Three and Four Musketeers, to the real life founder of Pakistan in Jinnah, one of the best performances of his career.
In the ’50s and ’60s, he was definitive Count Dracula, as well as The Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster, giving his own unique take on the classic screen monsters. In the seventies he was Francisco Scaramanga, James Bond’s triple-nipple adversary in The Man With the Golden Gun. More recently he appeared as the villain Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels, and appeared as Saruman in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I won’t mention every movie he’s ever made, because we’d be here all night, but he has developed the reputation as one of the most dedicated and determined actors of multiple generations.
Last year he worked with Martin Scorsese on Hugo Cabret and is currently slated to reprise his role as Saruman in the forthcoming fantasy, The Hobbit. In between all of this, he manages to squeeze in time to do work with UNICEF and record Operas and heavy metal albums. I don’t know if any of you have those, but they are good!
In 2009 he was knighted for his many achievements and at the age of 88, he’s still keeps doing amazing things!
Film clips from Lee’s career included HORROR OF DRACULA, THE WICKER MAN, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, Saruman in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Count Dooku in the STAR WARS prequels, and several of Burton’s own movies, most notably CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACOTRY and THE CORPSE BRIDE. Only two of Lee’s many non-genre films were highlighted: that of his own favorite performance, Jinnah, where he plays the leader of Pakistan, (and which received almost no distribution whatsoever in America) and his new film Triage, with Colin Farrell (which will also have no American theatrical release).
I do feel a little bit like the man who said, I can’t wait to hear what I’ve got to say, but I’ll do my best.
Wise and generous members of the committee, my fellow thespians, many of whom are involved in this (points to the BAFTA award)… I thank you all. This is a truly a great honor. A great, great honor. Two things really make it so. The fact that this was voted to me by my peers, and secondly, that I received it from one of the great directors of our age. (Tim Burton hugs Christopher).
I think there was a newspaper this morning that said I was probably going to cry, something I don’t very often do, in films at any rate. But it is a very emotional moment for me. I’m thankful that I don’t follow in the steps of the great Stanley Kubrick, whose award was posthumous. And I would like to say (looks at award)… my God… this is without a doubt the finest image I’ve ever had.