Christopher Lee has shuffle’d off this mortal coil and is now one with the Force. In light of yesterday’s saddening news that the man, the myth, the legend, has passed away – our Jedi Council reminisces about our favorite Count Dooku moments.
David (Razor) Harris: I can honestly say that when I first watched Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I did not like Count Dooku at all. The reason for my strong dislike was the arrogance and disdain he showed toward my favorite characters the Jedi (at the time I still hadn’t succumbed to the Dark Side), and the cavalier attitude he demonstrated in doing the bidding of his Sith Master, so brashly in the open. Before Count Dooku, I was used to reading books about the secret maneuverings of the Sith, so as not to draw Jedi attention to their presence, which was demonstrated in The Phantom Menace…Dooku’s dealings out in the open, changed all that.
While his lightsaber duels with Yoda and Anakin are absolute highlights for me, it was his draconian demeanor that drew me to him, and that has to be attributed to the masterful acting of Sir Christopher Lee. I can remember walking out of The Phantom Menace, thinking to myself that the only reason I stayed until the end was Darth Maul. However, when I walked out of Attack of the Clones, I knew that the entire film had been carried by Lee’s dark and sinister characterization of a former Jedi turned Sith.
I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how a Jedi who was a padawan learner to the most revered and powerful Jedi to ever live, Yoda, could turn to the machinations of a Sith Master and the attraction of the Dark Side. All of this can be attributed to Sir Christopher Lee’s grand acting skills. Now, I cannot think of a list of the most powerful Sith to ever live, without including Count Dooku in the upper echelon of said list. Fare thee well, Sir Christopher Lee, thank you for making me love the prequels, and may the Force be with you.
Kyle Warnke: At the risk of offending fans of Christopher Lee, I was never the biggest fan of Count Dooku. Lucas wrote the character as a pretty generic bad guy, with no defining traits or mission. He’s so deceptive and conniving that we never really learn his true motivations, and the only reason he generated any interest was because of his portrayal by Lee, who imbued him with a sense of menace and fallen grace.
Until the very end, that is. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin subdues Dooku while attempting to rescue the Chancellor, who promptly eggs him on to end the Sith’s life. It’s right then that we seem to glimpse the first real emotion from Dooku, who realizes that he won’t be taken in alive. (This moment is fleshed out from Dooku’s internal perspective in the novelization.)
That was the only time throughout the entire series that I ever felt anything for Dooku, and a large part of it was Lee’s emoting. Ironically, for an actor known for playing grand, larger-than-life villains who appear to be so powerful as to be invincible, it was in a moment of weakness that he was most effective. RIP, Sir Christopher Lee.
Elaine Tveit: One of the many, many talents Sir Christopher Lee was known for was his film swordplay; demonstrated to grand effect in Star Wars, during Count Dooku’s duel with Grand Master Yoda in Attack of the Clones. Though a stunt double stood in for most of the footwork, which 80-year-old Lee could not do himself, the shots of Dooku from the waist up during the duel entirely showcased Lee’s work, and his alone.
Lee’s expertise in his acting craft is evident, too, in his presentation of Dooku, the personality and the style. In character, Dooku is able to hold his own against his former master with such physical feats as leaping into the air to meet Yoda blade to blade and gracefully parrying the more frenzied strikes of Yoda’s significantly smaller lightsaber. The elegance, the icy calm, the frustration as Dooku realizes he has met his match: all from the genius that was Lee’s acting prowess.
Though Dooku is not the the most well-loved Sith Lord in Star Wars, he will always be, I think, the most quintessentially classic villain of the saga. And all because of his very good fortune of having been made a true character by the great Christopher Lee. May your soul be uplifted, good sir.
Joseph Prescott: Count Dooku, a fittingly powerful and sinister character only one person could ever have brought to life on screen. When I first heard Sir Christopher Lee would be playing the part, I immediately knew what sort of character he would turn out to be. Tall, foreboding and strong with the Dark Side, he proved his worth with the continuation of the battle droid manufacturing on Geonosis and ended many a Jedi’s path with his distinctive lightsaber, and continued with his tyrannical reign during the Clone Wars, serving his Master well. We’d already had a fellow Hammer actor portray another sinister Empire benefactor with his lifelong friend Peter Cushing portraying Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin in Episode IV, and this no doubt influenced Lucas in casting Darth Tyranus as he seems to have an affinity for Hammer actors and their macabre yet sensitive screen presence.
To pick one favourite moment of his is difficult, not least because of his acting pedigree, but his minimal screen time in the Prequels proved enough to make a lasting impression in the Star Wars community. For me, I’d have to say it was more of what he embraced as the character that I enjoyed about him, rather than an actual moment. When he fights Anakin for the second time on Grievous’ command ship in Episode III, he tells him he feels his anger and fear and that he must embrace it, all in front of Palpatine who then tells Anakin to deliver the coup de grâce.
This moment was really powerful on the big screen, as we all knew of Anakin’s eventual fate anwyay but to hear it from Darth Tyranus and to be betrayed by his Master in favour of Skywalker is a poignant moment in the saga. A moment like that could not have been delivered without someone as talented and revered as Sir Christopher Lee and his deep Thespian voice.
It is with heavy heart that this piece is written, as I have been a fan of Sir Christopher Lee’s work for years, growing up in the UK it’s hard not to enjoy the Hammer series and his portrayals of famous literary figures. He lived a full life indeed, serving with the Royal Air Force in World War 2 and even releasing a number of heavy metal albums in his name. His portrayal of Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga is often lauded as is his iconic turn as Count Dracula in no less than 10 screen adaptations. One of the finest actors of our time and one that shall truly be missed, but thankfully we can still celebrate his wonderful acting again and again.
Time to watch The Wicker Man…