Thursday, 31 May 2007


Shortly after the publication of my biography of Peter Jackson, I was sitting in a pub when my mobile phone rang. I answered it...

"Is that Brian Sibley?" boomed an unmistakable, stentorian voice.

"Christopher Lee!" I replied. "Nice to hear from you!"

"How did you know it was me?" the caller asked in a vaguely miffed tone, "I was disguising my voice!"

Not too successfully as it happened... I've had plenty of opportunities to get used to that distinctive voice: from the movies, of course, and from having lunched and dined with it's owner, talked with him on numerous occasions while writing my books about The Lord of the Rings movies and the Jackson biography, and having conducted most of his on-camera interviews for the Rings DVD 'extras'.

Writing, the day before yesterday, about Peter Cushing, reminded me how nervous I was when I met Christopher Lee for the first time in many years at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival preview of the sneak footage of The Fellowship of the Ring.

It was in a room in a French château, taken over for the weekend by New Line Cinema and imaginatively decked out to look like a composite set from the movie.

Christopher was going over the proofs for my The Lord of the Rings: Official Movie Guide and characteristically telling me off for too many blood-spattered references to his movie representations of Dracula!

He is tall and imposing and with a voice like that and a penetrating gaze like his, one is not apt to argue! But my fear actually arose from recalling an encounter thirty-something years earlier...

I was a passionate young film fan and my best mate and I had bought tickets for the BAFTA Awards in the days when the event was not quite the big deal that it is today.

We had hired penguin suits and had pretty good seats in the National Film Theatre. To my delight, I discovered that I was sitting behind Christopher Lee and, after the ceremony and in the hope of impressing my friend, I tapped Lee on the shoulder - or as near as I could reach! - and assayed a conversation...

"Mr Lee," I began, "you won't remember me..." Fatal words, of course! "We met at Pinewood a couple of years back on the set of Nothing But the Night, when I was there to interview Peter Cushing..."

"Oh, yes," he replied politely and then turned to go - except that I was hoping to take the conversation further.

"So..." I said and Christopher turned back to look at me, wondering, no doubt, to what further inconsequential inanities he was to be subjected... Simultaneously, I realised that I didn't actually have anything else to say...

"So," I said again, "How is Peter Cushing?"

Storm clouds lowered and his eyes burned with positively more than just a hint of red!

Then came the devastating put-down: "We don't LIVE TOGETHER, you know!"

I was crushed! Devastated! Utterly speechless!

Needless to say, I've never, subsequently, had the nerve to remind him of this encounter. Well you wouldn't, would you --- just in case you got told off again!


Boll Weavil said...

At least you're in a position to tell us whether his bark is worse than his bite.... something that is known by only you and 500 blonde virgins from the Hammer days !

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL WEAVIL - Well, he's never ACTUALLY bitten me...

Brian Sibley said...

GILL sends the following story...

Your encounter at the Baftas reminds me of my most embarrassing moment with the famous!

I was running the prompt corner for Morecambe and Wise, their second visit to the theatre where I worked in a couple of months.

Eric Morecambe greeted me in most friendly fashion but appeared to be going to do his famous "clap on the cheeks" to me.

I hate having my face touched and pulled away somewhat sharply, leading him to say [equally sharply] "Don't worry I am not in the habit of touching up young women", before striding off to his dressing room.

I was so mortified I couldn't find the words to explain and apologise. I blushed about it for months! Was sad too, he was the loveliest man!

Boris Hiestand said...

haha- great stories here!

when you next speak to Chris, tell him to get in touch with me. He owes me twenty quid!

Andy J. Latham said...

"I've had plenty of opportunities to get used to that distinctive voice...from having lunched and dined with it's owner"

You didn't order a steak did you?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!......ahem

Brian Sibley said...

BORIS - Will he remember what the £20 was for? Oh, yes, and are you asking for interest??

ANDY - "STEAK"?! Absolutely NOT a joke to make in Mr L's presence, believe me!

Anne said...

You're just brimming with wonderful stories, aren't you? :)

Brian Sibley said...

Every one a gem, Anne, and every one God's down-home, honest Truth! ;-)