Prince of the Universe
Christopher Lambert talks Highlander’s 30th birthday, sequels and the proposed reboot...
“It’s unbelievable,” mutters Christopher Lambert, reflecting on how a fantasy film he headlined in 1986 still enjoys such a reverential fanbase on its 30th birthday. “It deals with immortality,” he shrugs, trying to explain its popularity. “When I read it in ’85, all these people were going to plastic surgery – everyone wants to try to rejuvenate.” Now more than ever… “I read an article a few months ago. Medicine is going so fast today that when you’re 75, they’ll be able to bring you back to 50. And by the time you get to 75 again, the scientists will be able to bring you back to 40.”
Highlander cast Lambert as Connor MacLeod from the clan MacLeod, a 16th-century Scotsman who discovers he is one of a small group of immortals who must lop off each other’s heads with huge swords, for there can be only one. He signed on before the producers realised he spoke little English (“I was raised on the French side of Switzerland. When I met the producer, his face dropped: ‘Holy shit, how are we gonna do this?’”), trained with swords and a voice coach for 20 weeks, and barely spoke to Connor’s arch enemy, the Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown, on set (“He wanted to stay in character”). It was worth it – the movie is a classic, somehow cohering into a satisfying whole while hopping between the medieval highlands and 1980s New York, fantasy and romance, with Queen on the soundtrack.
“When I was promoting Highlander 2, I kept saying, ‘Listen, if you’re expecting a sequel, then don’t see this movie,’” he sighs of the franchise’s plummet. “I said to the producers, ‘It’s ridiculous – they’re coming from a different planet?!’ Highlander 3 was what number 2 should have been, though you can never replicate the magic of the original.”
That said, the TV show (1992-1998) was “fun”, and he has no problems with the long-planned Highlander reboot, saying, “You can re-do something, but don’t try and copy.” If they want him for a cameo, he’ll do it, but he has no intention of playing the role of MacLeod’s Egyptian-born mentor Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, as portrayed by Sean Connery in the original. As far as Lambert is concerned, his Highlander legacy is assured… “It’s now been three generations [of fans],” he laughs. “I have 12-year-olds in the street saying, ‘Highlander, it’s so fucking great.’”
Now that’s a sword that saw some action.