July 23, 2001
Off to Be the Wizard
Two hundred and twenty-five, to be exact.
Those productions -- ranging from the Dracula movies (1958-1977) to The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and the highly praised Jinnah (1998) -- have taken him all over the world. So much so that he is rarely at his London Belgravia apartment. Each time he returns home, he finds the mail piled high behind the front door.
Now he is traveling again, this time to film some additional scenes in New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novels.
Lee portrays the wizard Saruman. Co-stars include Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins; Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey; and Liv Taylor as Arwen Undomiel.
"We completed shooting last Christmas," he said, sitting back in his chair. "But now they need some pick-up shots."
The first part, The Fellowship of the Ring, is scheduled to premiere December 19. The second story, The Two Towers, is to open during the Christmas season next year. And the third film, The Return of the King, is due to debut a year after that.
How's that for confidence?
"It's an amazing film," Chris proclaimed. "They showed 25 minutes of it at the recent Cannes Film Festival and it caused a sensation. Nobody had seen anything like it."
Mum on Star Wars sequel
Lord of the Rings has excited the veteran actor so much that that he finds it hard to stop talking about it. What he can't talk about, he said, is his role as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus in the upcoming Star Wars, Episode II.
"I've been asked to say nothing," he declared, "so I won't."
For his services to the film industry Chris was recently awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace. He has two other important honors: Commander of St. John of Jerusalem and France's Officer of Arts, Sciences and Letters.
"I am proud of them all, but I am not allowed to wear them all at the same time!"
Looking around his luxurious apartment, which he shares with his beautiful wife, Gitte, Chris bemoaned the quality of films he is offered in Britain.
"The stuff I am offered here is just terrible," he said, "so I have to travel. I like to work, but now that I've turned 79 I will probably throttle back a little."
But don't count on it, he adds on second thought.