Supernal Dreams: Christopher Lee, the master thespian of screen terror, celebrates his 87th Birthday

The Devil Rides Out (a.k.a. The Devil's Bride, 1968)Christopher Lee is celebrating his 87th birthday today, and it appears that the icon of screen terror is busier than ever. He has finished roles in several movies that have yet to be released, including a large part opposite Colin Farrell in TRIAGE, directed by Danis Tanovic (an Oscar winner for NO MAN’S LAND). He is also re-teaming with director Tim Burton and  Johnny Depp  in Disney’s upcoming ALICE IN WONDERLAND, where he will play the the Jabberwock .  It also appears that Lee is very  close to beginning production on the long-tauted re-imagining of his own favorite film, THE WICKER MAN, now re-titled COWBOYS FOR CHRIST.  Mr. Lee talks about several of these projects in a 16- minute video message to his fans that can be seen at the Christopher Lee Website.

Meanwhile, my own long interview with Christopher Lee will be appearing in the upcoming issue (#12) of Penny Blood magazine, alongside an article about the making of Hammer films 1968 classic starring Christopher Lee as the Duke de Richleau, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

Here is a short excerpt from the Lee interview that will be appearing in Penny Blood:

LAWRENCE FRENCH: It’s ironic that after you moved back to England, after living in Hollywood for about ten years, you started to get much better parts.

CHRISTOPHER LEE: What you are saying is that I’m now so old, it’s amazing I get any work at all!

LAWRENCE FRENCH: No, not really. I just find it amazing that you have been getting good parts in major movies like The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, there has been a renewal of interest. Somebody said, “He’s back, and I replied, “I haven’t ever really been away.” But I certainly have been offered a great many parts, and I am now extremely busy, for which I am very grateful. The type of pictures I’m now associated with have enormous budgets and have made huge sums of money – although not consistently. But it just so happens that I have done several big box-office pictures. It started with Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow in 1999, which I did at his request and because I wanted to work with Tim and with Johnny Depp. I think Johnny is one of the best young actor’s around. That turned out to be a very successful film. Then of course, there was Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings. Then George Lucas and Attack of the Clones.

LAWRENCE FRENCH
: Which is quite a contrast to the movies Boris Karloff was doing when he was in his 80s. He was appearing in mostly low-budget pictures like the one he did with you, The Crimson Cult.

CHRISTOPHER LEE: Yes, and that wasn’t a very good picture, but the reason I did it was because I had a feeling that Boris wasn’t going to be with us much longer. I thought, “My goodness, he might not make many more pictures, this is my opportunity.” So even though it was not a good film, I wanted to work with Boris again. He was a sick man, but he showed enormous courage. He played it throughout in a wheelchair, because his leg was in a brace and he couldn’t walk properly. He could hardly breathe because of his emphysema, but he was as gallant as they come.

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About the Author

Lawrence French

LAWRENCE FRENCH celebrated his 20th anniversary as a contributor to Cinefantastique Magazine with his cover story on the making of THE RETURN OF THE KING. As Cinefantastique’s longtime San Francisco correspondent, he has written numerous stories about Pixar and Lucasfilm, and interviewed such genre stalwarts as Vincent Price, Tim Burton, Ray Harryhausen, John Lasseter, Phil Tippett and Ray Bradbury. He is also the editor of the highly regarded website on Orson Welles, Wellesnet.com. His book as editor of Richard Matheson’s Edgar Allan Poe scripts for THE HOUSE OF USHER and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM was published by Gauntlet Press in 2007, with a second volume on TALES OF TERROR and THE RAVEN due out in the future. For Cinefantastique Online, he currently writes the regular column Supernal Dreams.

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