05 September 2012

Christophe Lambert

French, American-born actor Christophe or Christopher Lambert (1957) is known for his good looks, gravelly, raspy voice and his unsettling eyes. His best known roles are Tarzan, Lord of the Apes in Greystoke (1984) and the immortal Connor MacLeod in the Highlander film series (1986-2000). He was also the hero of countless futuristic action films, that often went straight-to-video.

Christophe Lambert
French postcard by Humour à la Carte, Paris, no. ST-105. Photo: Pascal Dolemieux / VU.

Christophe Guy Denis Lambert was born in Great Neck, Long Island, New York in 1957. His mother was a French psychiatrist and his father a French diplomat stationed in the US at the United Nations at the time of Lambert's birth. His family left the US when he was only two years old, after his father was assigned by the UN to Switzerland. Christophe was educated at private boarding schools in Geneva. At the age of 12, he appeared in a play. At 16, he moved to Paris. Lambert worked with the London Stock Exchange and served in the French military, both allegedly at his father's insistence. Then he studied at the Paris Conservatoire for two years. He made his film debut with a small role in the comedy Ciao, les mecs/Ciao, You Guys (1979, Sergio Gobbi) with Charles Aznavour. He soon appeared in more films, but did not become a star until he played the leading role in Warner Brothers’ lush epic Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984, Hugh Hudson). In this English-language film he was credited as Christopher Lambert but in French speaking countries he would remain known as Christophe Lambert. His Greystoke co-stars included Andie MacDowell, Ian Holm, James Fox and Ralph Richardson in his final film performance. Tarzan buffs liked the film for remaining quite faithful to Edgar Rice Burroughs' original story. Looking as good in period costumes as he did in a scanty loin cloth, Lambert also became the newest sex symbol in France. That same year he also had his first lead role in a French film, opposite Catherine Deneuve in Paroles et musique/Love Songs (1984, Élie Chouraqui). Then he played the male lead in the excellent thriller Subway (1985, Luc Besson) opposite Isabelle Adjani, for which he was awarded a César Award for Best Actor. The intense gaze he showed in these and many later roles is the result of myopia at an early age. Myopia is a condition that causes the eyes to focus incorrectly, making distant objects appear blurred. He cannot see without his glasses, and because he cannot wear contact lenses, he is often forced to act while virtually blind. This has led to injuries while performing his own stunts without glasses.

Christophe Lambert
French postcard by Ebullations, no. 60.

Christophe Lambert
French postcard by Éditions Humour à la Carte, Paris, no. ST-104. Photo: Gérard Uferas / VU.

A Sword-wielding Scotsman
In 1986, Christopher Lambert played his most famous role: the immortal Connor MacLeod, a sword-wielding Scotsman born in the Highlands of Scotland in 1518, who finds himself fighting evil in modern-day New York. Highlander (1986, Russell Mulcahy), co-starring Sean Connery, was an international success. However, upon initial US release, it was not well-received, but it gained wide and persistent popularity in Europe and on other markets, as well as on home video. It has since obtained status as a cult classic, leading to four sequels, a television series, and various other spin-offs. Lambert appeared in the three sequels that were released in cinemas, Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy), Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994, Andrew Morahan) and Highlander: Endgame (2000, Douglas Aarniokoski). He was not in the TV film Highlander: The Source (2007, Brett Leonard) made for the Sci-Fi Channel – and had only a cameo appearance in the pilot of the 1992 television series. His films after Highlander, such as I Love You (1986, Marco Ferreri) and The Sicilian, (1987, Michael Cimino), in which he starred as Salvatore Giuliano, were less successful than his previous pictures. In To Kill a Priest (1988, Agnieszka Holland), he played a character based on Jerzy Popiełuszko, the young Polish priest who spoke out against the Communist regime. The film was well-received by critics but was a financial failure.

Christophe Lambert
British postcard by Reflex Marketing LTD, Watford.

Christophe Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Highlander II: The Quickening
French postcard by Sonis, no. C 159. Photo: publicity still for Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Russell Mulcahy) with Virginia Madsen.

During the 1990’s, Christopher Lambert starred in action and science fiction films such as the thriller Knight Moves (1992, Carl Schenkel) with Diane Lane, Fortress (1992, Stuart Gordon), Gunmen (1993, Deran Sarafian) with Mario Van Peebles, and the Italian-produced Nirvana (1997, Gabriele Salvatores). His filmography also included low-budget films such as Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1997, Albert Pyun), which were generally poorly-received by critics and often enjoyed only direct-to-video release. In the course of that decade, Lambert also occasionally appeared in French films such as the thriller Max et Jérémie/Max & Jeremie (1992, Claire Devers) with Philippe Noiret. In 1995, he played the role of the thunder god Raiden in Mortal Kombat (1995, Paul W.S. Anderson), a movie adaptation of the popular video game series. Lambert was interested in reprising his character in the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997, John R. Leonetti), but he was committed to his role in Beowulf (1999, Graham Baker), and the role was given to James Remar. Primarily an action star, Lambert occasionally showed up in other genres, including the romantic comedy Arlette (1997, Claude Zidi) with Josiane Balasko. He also became active as a film producer and has produced French films such as the drama N'oublie pas que tu vas mourir/Don't Forget You're Going to Die (1995, Xavier Beauvois) and the gangster film J'irai au paradis car l'enfer est ici/I will go to heaven for hell is here (1997, Xavier Durringer).

Christophe Lambert
British postcard by Minerva / Holmes McDougall LTD, Edinburgh, no. 275, 1987.

Christophe Lambert
French postcard by Editions Rock RV, no. CA 19.

Failure and Acclaim
In 2001, Christophe Lambert played the lead role of Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix in the France-Canada production Vercingétorix/Druids (2001, Jacques Dorfmann), which was a critical and financial failure. In 2009, he was a lead in White Material (2009, Claire Denis) opposite Isabelle Huppert. Now, both the film and Lambert's performance received critical acclaim. Lambert was married twice. He met his first wife, American film actress Diane Lane in 1985, when they were both in Rome on separate publicity junkets. They married three years later and had one daughter, Eleanor Lambert (1993). They divorced in 1994. In 1996 he married Jaimyse Haft. They divorced in 2006. He later had a relationship with actress Sophie Marceau with whom he appeared in the crime drama La disparue de Deauville/Trivial (2007, Sophie Marceau). In a 2010 interview with British newspaper The Guardian, he stated that he lives mostly on an airplane and he can't stay anywhere longer than a few months. Along with owning a mineral water business and food processing plant, Lambert produces Côtes-du-Rhône wines with partner Eric Beaumard at a vineyard located in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, France. When not on location, he divides his time between his winery, his ‘main residence’ in Switzerland, and his daughter in Los Angeles. Recently, he could be seen in the Bulgarian romantic comedy The Foreigner (2012, Niki Iliev) and in the Marvel Comics film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012, Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor) featuring Nicholas Cage. Reportedly, Lambert underwent sword training for 3 months and shaved his head for his role as Methodius.

French trailer for Subway (1985). Source: YarcoTV (YouTube).

Trailer for White Material (2009). Source: MovieManiacs (YouTube).

Sources: Ed Stephan (IMDb), Lizzy Davies (The Guardian), Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

He was great in Of Gods and Men