Friday, June 12, 2015

ululate!

The great Sir Christopher Lee is dead at 93. Probably best known for his early, iconic work as Dracula, Lee went on, in his later years, to play SF/F roles like that of Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels (Lee's scenes were among the best in those lame films) and Saruman the White in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, thus earning him the affectionate moniker "Count Dooku the White."

Lee's Saruman is the subject of a hilarious YouTube parody video titled "Trolling Saruman," which you can watch here. For background, though, you need to view the original Russian "Trololo" video on which the Saruman parody is based: "Trololo" is, from what I gather, Russia's answer to Rick-rolling.

But the quirkiness doesn't end there. As you might imagine, Lee didn't just have an impressive speaking voice: he had an impressive singing voice that he sometimes put to strange uses, as in this bizarre musical number with—of all people—Alan Arkin in 1983's Australian production, "The Return of Captain Invincible."

Lee lent his voice to the dragon-like Jabberwocky (it should have been called the Jabberwock; "Jabberwocky" was the title of Lewis Carroll's poem, not the name of the monster) in 2010's "Alice in Wonderland." He also spoke excellent French (radio interview here, all in French), with only the barest trace of an accent, and had French-speaking roles in French movies (e.g., the so-so action film "Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse").

As far as I can tell, Lee was active almost all the way up to the end of his long and storied career. He did claim, in his 90s, that he had been having trouble flying long distances for certain engagements, but he was a tough old bird, a World War II veteran who mostly served in British military intelligence, even once surviving a bombing. A bit on the darker side, Lee has said he did work with the British SAS, although he never went into detail as to what, exactly, that meant.

The world will miss Mr. Lee's deep, subterranean voice, his unforgettable screen presence, and his exemplary perfectionism. There's a moment in "Attack of the Clones" during which Lee's Count Dooku is fighting Ewan McGregor's Obi-wan Kenobi, and Dooku breaks into a crazed, gleeful smile right before he wounds Kenobi twice. For just that moment, Lee seemed to be the only actor actually having fun on set, and I'll always be thankful to him for that: no matter how silly the role was, Lee always put his heart into it.

RIP, Sir Christopher. You'll be missed.


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1 comment:

Charles said...

The man was a legend who knew how to live life to the fullest. He will indeed be missed.