Casting Update: Christopher Lee

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July 11, 2000
Lucasfilm is pleased to announce the casting of acting legend Christopher Lee in the role of a charismatic separatist in George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode II currently filming in Australia for release in summer 2002.

Lee says he is looking forward to taking part in the epic space fantasy saga. "They created a whole new era in the cinema," says Lee of the Star Wars films. "There's no question about that. The scale of imagination and the scale of production and the impact that it had on the entire world was a first. It created an impact in the cinema that was unique. This particular series of film will be a mythic saga on a vast scale."

Such scale is not daunting to a man of Lee's caliber. "I've been in the film industry for 53 years, and I can remember doing very big pictures, very physically demanding pictures, very tough pictures. Big budget movies with big directors. So, I am used to working in epic pictures. I've been in many over the years. In the past, one could work extremely hard, very long hours, very demanding roles, and still have fun. It can still happen today, but 'fun' is a word you don't hear very often in the film industry these days, sadly. It's increasingly rare. One of the things that George Lucas said to me was, 'We'll have a lot fun.' And that, believe me, is very good to hear."

Christopher Lee has defined the macabre for generations of horror film enthusiasts. His long film career began in 1947. In 1957, Lee appeared in his first Hammer Film Production, The Curse of Frankenstein, opposite Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: A New Hope). With the success of Frankenstein, Lee would go on to star in numerous Hammer films throughout the 60s and early 70s, often co-starring with Cushing.

Lee's most legendary role is that of Dracula, which he first portrayed in 1958's The Horror of Dracula. A spectacular hit, this film propelled Lee's career to stardom.

"If you think it's easy, you're not doing your job properly," Lee says of his craft. "If you hear an actor say he or she isn't nervous, I'm telling you they're not probably very good at their job. Of course one is nervous because one is trying to play the character as the character should be played, to the best of one's abilities. One is trying to give the performance the director wants. And above all, one is trying to make a contribution to the entire overall story which is a valid one and has meaning, and would be remembered."

In the 1970s, Lee expanded beyond horror films to such work as The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Man With the Golden Gun. In 1972 he founded Charlemagne Productions Limited. Lee's autobiography, Tall, Dark and Gruesome, was published in 1977 and updated in 1997.

His chiseled, handsome features and deep voice give his characters a captivating intelligence and class - whether as a ruthless villain like Dracula or as a noble hero like Sherlock Holmes.

Lee's lengthy filmography includes: The Face of Fu Manchu, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, Dracula: Prince of Darkness; Theatre of Death, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, The Man With the Golden Gun; 1941 and most recently The Lord of the Rings currently in production. His 250 film and television credits have earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats for the international star with the most credits. He has also performed in a multitude of classical theatre productions from Shakespeare to Coward.

Despite his busy schedule, Lee finds relaxation in acting. "I think it was Brando who said 'an actor is only truly himself when he's acting,'" he says. "I think I know what he meant. An actor only really fulfills himself when he's creating a performance of a character. Exercising my imagination and instincts as an actor -- if it's working out correctly and properly -- is amazingly relaxing afterwards. Not while you're doing it, but afterwards."

Although this is Lee's first involvement with Star Wars, he is once again collaborating with familiars. Lee appeared in 1999's Sleepy Hollow, which also boasted Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine) and Stunt Coordinator Nick Gillard.

Christopher Lee lent his considerable talents to the Austrian, 1917 episode of Lucasfilm's The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. As the diplomat Count Ottokar Graf Czernin, Lee played an obstacle to Young Indy's secret mission to negotiate a peaceful end to World War I.

"I know many members of that family," explains Lee. "I knew a lot about this man, who was a very devious character, indeed. He was the Austrian foreign minister, and he tried to keep the Austrian Emperor - who in this instance was the last Emperor of Austria - from sending this letter to the Kaiser, asking for peace. He was a very sharp, very slippery customer. So I was very glad to do it. I enjoyed it very much, as I knew members of the Czernin family." This episode is available on videocassette as Young Indiana Jones: Adventures in the Secret Service.

Of his role in Star Wars, Lee had this to offer: "It will be more than another part. It will be another 'arrow in my quiver.' I'm looking forward to it enormously."

Keywords: Casting, Actors

Filed under: The Movies, Episode II

Databank: Dooku, Count
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