"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!