Film Scouts Diaries

2007 Festroia International Film Festival Diaries
The 23rd Festroia International Film Festival, # 5

by Henri Béhar

The One and Only…Christopher Lee

Setubal, Portugal, June 9, 2007 -- It is in a smashing hotel up on the hills overlooking the sea that actor Christopher Lee, in town to get a Life Achievement Dolphin, met with the press. Answering in English, French, Spanish and Italian (some of the languages he is fluent in), he spoke about the film industry, acting and audiences, young and old. The man should know: having appeared in over 250 films, he has conquered generations of filmgoers, from his pre-Dracula days all the way to Star Wars (where he played Count Dooku) and The Lord of the Rings (Saruman).

Speaking of previous Life Achievement Dolphin honorees, he singled out Lauren Bacall and particularly Robert Mitchum, who starred in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955), a film he finds "irreprehensible both in the directing and in the acting, and also on the script, the score and the cinematography."

Other highlights:

On the state of the Art: "Nowadays most films live on explosions, blood and sex, and it is all so explicit and excessive that it doesn't even shock… [Whereas] a good film doesn't need to show or explain everything, it can trust the audience's imagination." A perfect example of that, in his view, was Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968)

On the state of the industry: "In the past, great directors made movies for everyone, but now much of what is produced has only American teenagers in mind. (…) Now a movie can be clearly bad but if it makes a fortune at the box office, it is acclaimed as being excellent, while a beautiful film can easily be put aside if it doesn't make enough money."

On actors who are instantly promoted as big stars before their acting skills are properly honed. "When I started, I was also a bad actor and I had to learn. (…) To be an actor, one needs imagination, inventiveness and instinct. And although it is something that you are born with, you need to learn and improve some techniques."

On accepting a part. "[You do so] to have the opportunity to do something that hasn't been done, which is starting to be hard, or to give an important contribution to the film. (…) Even a small part can be remembered in the future. . .for an actor can achieve a remarkable performance with just two pages of line - if the lines are good."

A case in point, he added: his accepting the role of Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. Having read the trilogy written by J. R. R. Tolkien, whom he had met personally, he had always been fascinated by the character of Gandolf. He met with director Peter Jackson and auditioned for the part, but somehow, it didn't click (the part eventually went to Ian McKellen). A few days later, however, Jackson offered him to play Saruman and Lee accepted. "It is [always] interesting to play the bad guy, because a villain that is well-played lingers in the audience's mind."

A touching note: on closing night, when Christopher Lee received his Life Achievement Dolphin from the hands of Festival director Fernanda da Silva, he dedicated his award to Festroia's late founder (and friend) Mario Ventura.

Previous Installment | Next Installment

Back to Festroia International Film Festival Diaries

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.