Christopher Lambert was well known in French cinema before he made his first American movie. Contrary to popular belief, his most popular role as Connor MacLeod in Highlander was not his first English-speaking movie. His first came as the Lord of the Apes, Tarzan.
Christopher Lambert was born in America (Great Neck, New York) but his father was a French diplomat at the United Nations. Lambert moved to Geneva as an infant and then moved to Paris while in his teens. This is where he began his movie career.
After a string of roles in French films, Christopher Lambert made his debut as John Clayton, the baby who was raised by apes in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. For the movie, only four men screen-tested for the role of Tarzan. Naturally one was Lambert, the others were an unknown Danish ballet dancer, actor Julian Sands (Arachnophobia), and Viggo Mortensen.
The choice finally boiled down to Lambert and Mortensen and Greystoke’s director Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) had a strange reason for finally going with Christopher Lambert. “I just felt that Christopher was the right person. He had this strange quality — somehow, because he was myopic, when he took his glasses off, he couldn’t really see properly so he would seem to look through you into the distance,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. It was a solid entry for Lambert into American cinema as the movie received many positive reviews, but his next movie was the one that gave him cult status.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE
Highlander featured a killer soundtrack by Queen. It had the original James Bond himself, Sean Connery, appearing as a sword-wielding Egyptian with a Spanish name. And it had the new Tarzan, Christopher Lambert, who spoke little English but learned it well enough to make it through the movie. It also featured quite a few beheadings.
After watching an early cut of a death scene, Queen guitarist was prompted to write a song for the movie (Who Wants to Live Forever). “It’s this violent tale of immortals fighting to the death but there’s this subplot, a tragic love story. The hero cannot die but he falls in love with people who can. He falls in love with this girl in the Highlands. She grows old and he has to say goodbye to her. It’s a strange kind of tragedy. I related that to my own life, to everyone’s life. Love always comes to an end.” May explained via The Telegraph as the band was out promoting their tie-in album, A Kind of Magic.
Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod is an immortal. He is told so by Connery’s Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez. The only way immortals can be killed is by beheading. The immortal doing the beheading then owns the energy released (The Quickening) by the dead immortal, making them that much more powerful. MacLeod is being tracked through time by his old foe, the Kurgan, who almost killed him in the 16th Century. All immortals are after one thing, The Prize. This is where the remaining immortals come together at The Gathering to fight for The Prize, which is the power of all the immortals through time.
Highlander’s success spawned three sequels, all of which saw Christopher Lambert return as MacLeod. The two middle movies, Highlander II: The Quickening and Highlander III: The Sorcerer, didn’t receive good reviews, with the second movie being considered the absolute worst of the four. The fourth movie, Highlander: Endgame, brought together Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and his TV counterpart Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul from Highlander: The Series, which had a successful six-season run) and was regarded as a great ending to a decent franchise. Of course, there is talk of a Highlander reboot.
CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT IN THE SICILIAN
After Christopher Lambert’s success with the first Highlander, Lambert was a wanted man. He was hired to star in The Sicilian, a movie based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name. The interest in making this into a movie was because of the success of Puzo’s The Godfather but the movie production ran into many problems. First off, the movie was being directed by Michael Cimino, he of Heaven’s Gate, which has been widely regarded as one of the biggest box office failures of all time.
The Sicilian ran into many issues, mostly stemming from Cimino and the control of the film he thought he had. Another big issue was the Mafia. The movie told the story of Salvatore Giuliano (Christopher Lambert), a bandit who was trying to liberate Sicily from Italian rule in the 1950s. Salvatore went to war against the Mafia.
In real life, with the movie being shot on location in Sicily, Cimino and company ran into an issue with some low-level Mafia men who controlled certain areas around the film’s production. The producers realized, after meeting with these made men, that they only wanted to appear in the film. So, the producers had an easy fix, offering walk-on roles and if there wasn’t a true role for a particular person, they’d pretend they were shooting something and toss them a day’s wage. Problem solved. Unfortunately for Christopher Lambert, the completed movie was a mess.
CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT ISN’T BLIND, BUT HE’S CLOSE TO IT
Myopia is a condition that affects Christopher Lambert’s eyesight. His eyesight is so bad that he cannot function without his glasses.
Early in his career, Christopher Lambert would film his action scenes without his glasses, making him virtually blind to what was going on around him. The pain it caused was more of the physical variety, as some of the action sequences he needed to shoot ended with the actor getting injured. Of course, his condition helped him nab his first American role as Tarzan, which led to bigger and better things, so while it is a hindrance, it didn’t slow Lambert down.
OFF CAMERA WORK
Christopher Lambert has enjoyed a successful career. First as an action star and more recently as just an actor. But that isn’t all Lambert has accomplished. He is a producer and author.
As a producer, Christopher Lambert has many credits under his name, split between French and American films. On the American side, his credits include Knight Moves, Nine Months, When Saturday Comes, and Resurrection.
On the novelist side, Christopher Lambert is known for two French novels. They are La fille porte-bonheur, which was published in 2011, and Le juge, which saw publication in 2015.
CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT NOW
Over the years, Christopher Lambert continued to enjoy making both French and American movies. Some of his more well-known American movies include the Fortress series (Fortress and Fortress 2), he was the villain in the Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, he played Lord Raiden in the original Mortal Kombat movie, he was also in Mean Guns, Beowulf, and more recently 10 Days in a Madhouse.
His last big American role was in the 2016 Coen brothers movie Hail, Caesar! But that doesn’t mean he’s retired. Now 63-years-old, Christopher Lambert seems to be focusing more on French films and when he’s in America doing TV shows like NCIS: Los Angeles and The Blacklist.
In the future Lambert already has quite a few projects lined up, again, crossing over from French films to American. It’s a formula that has worked for his entire career, no need to change things up now.