They shared the screen twice, in the cult “Highlander” and its sequel. For AlloCiné, Christophe “MacLeod” Lambert shares his memories of Sean “Ramirez” Connery, who died on October 31 at the age of 90.
If Sean Connery has slipped into the James Bond tuxedo seven times (including the unofficial Never Again), he has only reprized a role once in his career: the character of the immortal Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, mentor and friend of Connor MacLeod in Highlander (1986) and Highlander the comeback (1991). A few days later the disappearance of this legend of the 7th Art, Christophe Lambert has agreed to share his memories of Sir Sean with us.
AlloCiné: What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you think of Sean Connery?
Christophe Lambert: Cinematically, it’s James Bond. On a human level, someone extremely open, intelligent, sympathetic. Instantly sympathetic. Someone who doesn’t cheat, who doesn’t pretend to be anything other than himself. And someone extremely positive. It is the memory that I kept of him. The last time I saw him was ten years ago … If he loved you, he loved you very much. If he didn’t like you, it was a mess. (Laughs) He was very cash, he accepted you right away … or not.
What memories do you have of your very first meeting, that moment when you walk into a room and you know that James Bond is waiting for you on the other side of the door?
We didn’t meet like that. We met in a pub next to the hotel. It was a first meeting around a shot of whiskey, Scottish of course. I introduced myself, he introduced himself, we talked and we hit it off right away. It was simple. He was a very simple person.
The first time Ramirez meets MacLeod in the film, he gives off a special aura, linked to what Sean Connery himself exuded, as if he had lived a thousand lives and a thousand existences. Is that also the impression he made on you?
Completely, I agree with you. That is to say someone timeless.
To prepare “Highlander” and the role of Connor MacLeod, you took lessons in fencing but also in Scottish. How was your first attempt at a Scottish accent against a pure Scottish man like Sean Connery?
I had worked the Scottish accent for four months with a coach, so I was ready. On the set, he only corrected me once. So my accent was pretty good. We were perched thirty or forty meters high, my coach could not be with me, and Sean connery corrected me on one word. He was a caring person.
Among the great scenes of “Highlander” is the beach race between MacLeod and Ramirez. Do you during this streak take a step back and realize that you are running alongside such a holy monster, or are you in the role and not realizing the power of such a moment?
We don’t realize at all. At all. I was making a movie as Connor MacLeod with Ramirez. That’s all. I was only in the human relationship, not at all in a relationship between the superstar Sean Connery and the beginning actor that I was at the time. I just met a great human being.
He had the reputation of being very demanding with the directors, as Jean-Jacques Annaud explained to us, because he himself was excellent from the first take. Is this something you may have witnessed?
He immediately got on very well with our director Russell Mulcahy. It was an instant connection. He chatted a lot with Russell, around specific scenes, but he had no particular requirements. He trusted her completely on Highlander. On the other hand, yes, I heard that he could be … He was not someone to be taken with snobbery: he came from the street, he respected this street, and he respected the people who respected this street . That is to say that we are what we are, we are not what we have.
During his successful career, Ramirez is the only role he has agreed to reprise, apart from James Bond. Was it out of friendship for you?
I think it was out of friendship for Russell, for me, and for the fact that he was available at the time and he said to himself why not, because he had enjoyed the first part. Knowing that Highlander III should have been number 2, the direct sequel to the first Highlander. It wasn’t, but if we look Highlander the return, that you ignore the Highlander aspect and take it like a science fiction movie, the movie is good. The producers insisted at the time on calling it Highlander. And during the promo, I said to the fans: “If you’re expecting to see the sequel to Highlander, don’t go see the movie”. And the producers told me I was crazy, but I was telling the truth: this is not the sequel to Highlander! Number 3 was the real sequel.
Your job has this ability to make “immortal”. Beyond “Highlander” and James Bond, in which film do you like to see and find Sean Connery?
The Man who wanted to be King. It’s not Sean’s best known, but it’s a great movie.
The roles refused by Sean Connery