The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Menacing Lee hungry for more villainous roles

Paris, Dec. 9 (Reuters): Christopher Lee is piling up his credentials as a cinema icon — he has played the villain in James Bond, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

All the 80-year-old British actor now needs to complete the set is an appearance in the Harry Potter movies.

Lee, a tall and saturnine figure with an unmistakeable air of menace, rose to fame playing Count Dracula in the classic Hammer horror films and has made more than 280 movies.

Now he is in more demand than ever and readily admits: “I’ll never retire. What would I do'”

He feels that he helped to create cinema history in the Rings trilogy, made back-to-back in New Zealand by director Peter Jackson with a $300 million budget and a crew of 2,400.

The first movie grossed $860 million and the second — The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers — is being released worldwide on December 18.

Lee, in Paris to promote the movie before its European premiere, said: “I think the film has given me the most satisfaction.”

Reflecting on his Bond role as the triple-nippled villain Scaramanga, he said: “Doing The Man with the Golden Gun was not very demanding. It was a fun movie, pure entertainment. Star Wars has of course had an audience of millions.”

“But I think this is the most important for me. It has created totally new ground in the history of the cinema,” said the actor who plays Saruman, the evil wizard.

The venerable octogenarian with the crisply trimmed white beard and rich baritone voice is the only member of the cast ever to have met J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the epic fantasy about Middle Earth, and he is a lifelong fan.

“I read the books when they came out and I became a complete devotee. I met the author very briefly many years ago.

“I just said ‘How Do You Do'’ I felt I ought to have knelt. I always dreamed it would become a film and that I would be in it if it did. Sometimes dreams come true.”

Lee is on the crest of a wave at the moment. For Star Wars, Count Dracula turned into Count Dooku, a rogue Jedi knight. Director George Lucas said of him: “I chose Christopher because nobody had such villainous credentials.”

He makes no secret of the fact that he would love to play Professor Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster role so memorably created in the first two Harry Potter movies by the late Richard Harris.

He firmly scotched rumours swirling around the movie industry: “I was never approached to play the part. I have not been approached to play the part.”

But he did add: “I could certainly play the character but it wouldn’t be the same way that the late Richard Harris played it.”

His enthusiasm for making movies is undimmed.

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