Sir Christopher Lee's touching acceptance speech at the BAFTAs
|NEWS - MOVIE NEWS|
The prolific English actor receives British Academy's highest honor, while his frailty conjures up questions regarding his Hobbit involvement...
Not to be blunt, but to call yourself a fan of film and to be unaware of Sir Christopher Lee's unsurpassed movie footprint means you have some catching up to do. And as the wonderfully-schlocky Count Dracula of Hammer Horror rapidly approaches 90, accolades from around the globe have rightly begun flowing in. In 2001, Lee was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II and then knighted in 2009, honors that many fans thought to be well-deserved and overdue. Then yesterday, at the 2011 BAFTA Awards, Lee was presented with the Academy's most prestigious distinction, the Lifetime Achievement award, better known as the BAFTA Academy Fellowship.
Upon presentation by director Tim Burton, a frail Lee slowly walked across the stage, with the help of a cane, to accept the award. Visibly emotional, Lee humbly thanked the Academy and Burton in particular, voice cracking. After modestly uttering a droll joke or two, the decorated actor of over 60 years thanked the rapt crowd again, and received his second standing ovation of the night. The heart-tugging and moving video follows...
The BAFTA Fellowship Award has been given out every year, either to a single recipient or several, since 1971, with auteur Alfred Hitchcock receiving the first ever BAFTA 'Mask' that year. Sir Christopher was the only 2011 recipient and seems to have lost nary a step when it comes to his legendary wit and mental faculties, but his physical appearance will likely come as a shock to mainstream audiences who know him primarily for his physically commanding roles of Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2001-2003 and Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels in 2002-2005.
However, despite concerns regarding his health and advancing age, Lee seems ambivalent towards pursuing retirement. After initially turning down the opportunity to participate in filming of The Hobbit, explaining that flying to New Zealand and the rigors of filming would be too difficult for a man his age, Lee surprised followers of the Tolkien adaptation by announcing on his website last month that he was, in fact, attached to the project. Serving as just one of his many iconic roles, the wizard Saruman the White does not appear in The Hobbit novel, but that has hardly stopped director Peter Jackson when it comes to casting Middle-Earth roles thus far. Elijah Wood (Frodo) and Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) are officially part of the roster as well, despite their characters not appearing in The Hobbit either, while other players of non-canon characters - Orlando Bloom (Legolas), for example - have also been asked to participate and, although not yet officially signed on, are expected to do so imminently.
Another unverified rumor has Lee not being tabbed to reprise his Saruman character after all, but instead preparing to voice the dragon Smaug, which would preclude the necessity of the near-nonagenarian enduring long-distance travel to New Zealand.
So, what say you, fans of Sir Christopher? Do you surmise that Lee could endure a full acting job as Saruman in the upcoming Hobbit films, or would you prefer that the venerable Lee make use of his extensive voice talents and stay near the comforts of home, voicing Smaug the Dragon? Or perhaps (like me), after viewing the above video, do you worriedly hope that he can just hang on that long at all?
The two Hobbit films will be filmed back-to-back and principal photography is expected to begin March 12.
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