When I was young, he scared the bejaysus out of me as Dracula
and again later
He was convincingly mad in The Wicker Man
Villainous in James Bond's Man With The Golden Gun
Completely insane in Star Wars II and III
Evil in Lord of the Rings
Death in the recent Discworld films
and last night, on the set of Triage, I met Mr Christopher Lee
An impressive 6'4½, Christopher Lee is an imposing figure. Hard to believe the man is 86 years old and still making movies. His imdb page lists 261 movies to his credit, 30 of those since 2000.
And what great movies - the iconic ones above, plus Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride; he was in The Golden Compass with Nicole Kidman, Sherlock Holmes movies and, erm, Police Academy 7 and Gremlins 2, as well as many more.
He's been in Ireland shooting Triage, a new Danis Tanovic movie also starring Paz Vega (Spanglish) and Ireland's own Colin Farrell. Last night saw his final scenes in the movie as Joaquin Morales meeting his daughter Elena (played by Vega) at Dublin Airport, duplicated for the screen at Dun Laoighre.
He is a professional. That's pretty much all that can be said. He works with the director and crew to ensure he's on mark for each shot, that his Spanish is perfect for the few lines he speaks and that the continuity works. When not acting he sits and chats with colleagues, here reviewing photos of the film which has some remarkable scenes:
He receives my request to meet graciously. I don't gush (as much as I want to) but tell him how much I admire his acting and how I remember being up late on Hallowe'en nights and watching him in Dracula and being very scared.
He returns a long look and says in that wonderfully deep and very recognisable English accent "You're too young. Far too young sir". I accept the compliment.
"My daughter - well I never let her watch the movies. Until once we sat down and I allowed her to watch The Mummy with me. I said to her "Now remember, that is not me on the screen. I am here with you. That is father in make-up. It's not real. It's just an illusion." but she was still quite scared. I could see it in her eyes. These movies were not for children."He knows a lot about Ireland and the Irish language, enquiring about the Gaeltachts, the correct pronunciation of different words and phrases and then, as suddenly as the break to move the camera started, it's over and he's Joaquin Morales again.
Triage, being filmed in Ireland and Spain, tells the story of Elena Morales, the girlfriend of a photojournalist (Farrell) who sets out to discover why he came home from a recent assignment without his colleague. It is a dark tale on the psychological effects of war with Lee playing a psychologist trying to help his daughter uncover the truth.
As he speaks his final dialogue for the microphone, stopping to ensure his pronunciation is perfect, the crowd breaks into a long and well-deserved ovation. He smiles, stands and says "As you know I'm a man of few words. Thank you. For the Irish I'd like to say "Céad míle fáilte and for the Spaniards Hasta Luego". And with that he's gone to another round of applause.
The crew readies the set for the final scenes of the night, the continuity shots at the Airport. The camera pans the crowd a few times as we, the movie extras mime conversation, laugh, carry bags from arrivals and reset over and over again.
Triage, with Christopher Lee, Colin Farrell, Paz Vega and if I'm lucky, Darragh Doyle's hand or something is out in 2009.