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; Christopher Lambert, star of Gre'ysto e b comes
the Highlander. Stephanie Billen finds out how.
Excuse me I’m dying.’ Christopher
Lambert, screen immortal, has
hay-fever. The hero of Greystoke,
Subway and now Highlander.
hunches his surprisingly small frame
to emit a few impatient coughs,
before taking another quick drag at
his Marlborough. The glowing
cigarette is probably at this moment
smouldering a good deal more than
the famous deep-set eyes now
watering behind blue tinted glasses.
_ Recovering himself, Lambert
continues his painfully total recall of
acting indestructability in a Scottish
loch. Plummeting underwater
without drowning, was not so much a
frightening experience as a ‘freezing experience‘. ‘The first time it’s a
surprise. I thought the water would be cold. but not that cold. The
second time. you know it is going to
5 be freezing. The third time, you turn
1 away and you say, “That’s the last
take you’re doing”.’ Not that the French born star drew lhe line at that in his role as immortal
i clansman and warrior, Connor Macleod. Highlander, spanning
several centuries and with a Spectacularly exciting battle drama in present day New York, was
, exactly the ‘action movie with special
effects’ that he had been seeking,
f and having taken the part, he was not
3 about to side step the adventure: ‘ If
. each time there is action, you sit in a
chair and let the Stuntman do it. then
you’re not doing an action movie,‘ he
says reasonably. Luckily, Lambert
was not among those called to lose
their heads in the movie, but the
Sight of their leading man
half-drowned or wielding a sword
j must have been worrying enough for
15 The. List Aug— Sept
home in Geneva. ‘It was interesting
Highlander’s American producers, already paranoid about Scottish summer temperatures. ‘They’d be running round going mad saying “We’re losingtime. . .",’the Highlander relates unsympathetically, remembering sequences filmed in Scotland. ‘OK, you’re sure you’re in Scotland because the weather is rather strange, but you have to be optimistic. Why complain? You’re in a beautiful country. doing what yu really love to do. I was watching the Scottish people, and if it is snowing. they just lie down and wait till it’s overf
The approach pleases Lambert, who is given to philosophising. Above all he is an optimist. a man who ‘respects the luck’ that has brought him to today’s plush South Kensington hotel and which years ago provided him with Hugh Hudson‘s Greysioke role just months after he had run away from the Paris Conservatoire acting school.
At twenty eight, Lambert has the transitional appearance ofone who this time next year may have taken to wearing black rather than blue-tinted shades, and exchanged hisjeans for ‘good’ trousers to match his designer jacket and short slicked black hair. But something about the double layer of old mannish vest T-shirts, and the individualistic scrap of red wool round his thin wrist, recalls a different era. Christopher (he still looks like a Christophe) had an unlikely early start to his career training as a stockbroker in London, a ‘sensible’ move, gently suggested by his professional parents back
for the first three weeks, then it became boring — for me that is.’ says Lambert. When it came to continuing his training in Paris after a few months. his French employers
provided an escape route by deciding
they no longer needed anyone. Lambert resumed his intentions, formed at the age of twelve, to become an actor. His father gave him two years of financial support to make his dream come true. ‘I went wild. l was out every night and working at a shop just to make a little more money. Then I realised suddenly I had six months left to be an actor. so I thought ‘My God, I have to go to acting school — I had never been on stage except when I was twelve.’
The ‘highly intellectual’ Conservatoire proved also ‘not for him’. and after an embarrassing encounter with his drama teacher one afternoon when Lambert had escaped into the street ‘to watch and listen and see what was going on . . .’ there were mutual ‘bye-byes’ all round. Lambert drifted into a few French film roles before meeting Hudson and auditioning for the Tarzan role that was to make his career.
Success does not seem to have altered his temperament as a kind of modest and realistic dreamer. ‘I don’t feel I’ve proved anything yet. When you do a movie, you’re always running after a goal you’ll never reach. You can sit on all the magazine covers you can have. but that’s not very constructive.‘ His outlook is such that ‘it’s fine to be a dreamer. so long as you’re not surprised when the dream doesn‘t come true. When I arrived in Paris, I thought everybody would lay out the red carpet and say “Mr Lambert. where have you been'.”’, and it wasn‘t like that at all. Sometimes it was difficult — you face your wall and you think, “Am I going to happen'.”. but what I mean about being optimistic, is that you have the ability to walk again in a couple of daysf
He is not unconscous of the role that money has played in cushioning the low points, remembering still the desperate phone calls to his mother and the varying degrees of financial sympathy he received, but he is chieﬂy grateful to have learnt ‘what money is‘ in a wider sense. ‘I am not my money; I am a human being- that’s all. Ifmoney is the first thing in a person’s mind. then it can destroy, whether that person has. or does not have money. The one thing I have learnt with my family is that money can’t buy nothing, and it can kill. . .’
Lambert's childhood seems to have been fraught with the strain of never seeing his parents because of their lucrative work, yet also trying to live up to their expectations. At 12. he had a rethink. ‘I decided to please my parents, but in my own way — which generally didn’t please them
very much, but then. what can you do?’. Christopher says appealingly, remembering the stormy
adolescence that had him ‘kicked out
of school five times in six years.’ Filming is itselfa kind ofﬂaunting ofthe rules for Lambert. It represented escape from the formal skills of the Conservatoire, and now offers an alternative to stage acting whereas Lambert points out. ‘Ifyou have nothing to do on stage and you just walk on, you fuck the play — it’s impossible.’ Instead he enjoys a free rein on the set and fills each of his film roles with a passion that means simply ‘becoming‘ the character. ‘I don‘t think’, and ‘I don’t read', are typical Lambert responses to questions like, ‘How much research did you do on 15th century Scotland before Highlander?’ It is perhaps a measure of the kind of luminous charm that he can achieve on screen, that he doesn’t do these things. In Subway. he gave life to the film’s stylised hero — he of the DJ and punky yellow hair. Lambert has described him as‘an optimistic nutcase and a mixture between the Little Prince and Mad Max,’ a telling description that draws attention to the fictional mentor whose philosophy comes nearest to his own.
‘I love the character in the story. He can be talking to a fox or a ﬂower, and who knows ifit is real or in his imagination. . . you can talk to a teddy bear, and ifyou’re imagination is strong enough, it can answer, even if it is in your heart that you hear him. Adults would call that crazy, but that’s what I mean, you should leave people alone; don’t judge.’ In retrospect this makes it easy to see how the rising star could have played parts like the man who falls in love with a woman on his keyring in Marco Ferreri's bizarre Cannes’ offering. [Love You. But it offers few clues about what the future may hold. He has rejected a part in The Third Eye, a film about reincarnation, again because it was ‘too intellectual’. An international star. he plans to play both high budget American movies, and European ones, but is well used to being unimpressed with the scripts offered to him. particularly the ‘half-naked’ ones that came his way after Greystoke. ‘At the Conservatoire, I used to think the day I had ten scripts on my desk, I would have made it. These days, I have ten scripts, and nine are terrible and you know that the one you really want to do. someone else is going to do,’ he says ruefully.
The surrogate Little Prince talks some more - ofwhat it means to be a sex symbol (‘When I look in the mirror in the morning. it’s usually just to think “ugh, scary’”). of dreams, and ofrespecting life. Then he coughs. raises his hand for another water. The French waiter teases his amusing friend: ‘Tu as l’air d’enfant ce matin.’ Lambert laughs the characteristic naughty chuckle: ‘Yes, I am happy,‘ he grins. Highlander opens across Central Scotland on 29Aug.
THE FILMS SO FAR P. 18. ALLAN HUNTER 0N CARLOS SAUIIA P. 19.