Christophe(r) Lambert


  1. Frédéric Andréi, Diva, France, 1980.     For his first feature’s hero, Jean-Jacques Beineix wanted an unknown. (That way the director garners all the praise). Dominique Besnehard, soon to be Europe’s #1 casting director, suggested Christophe(r) Lambert (a  friend for life), Anconina (not so much: “too insistent, too much pressure”).  Lambert was too old (but fine for  Luc Besson’s Subway). And Besnehard gave him good advice.  “Stop hiding behind your glasses  Show yourself.  Don’t be  afraid of showing your face.” The also-rans were: Richard Berry, Jean-Paul Comart (ex-Connart), Tchéky Karyo, Christophe Malavoy (“couldn’t take my  eyes off him,” when studying together at La Rue Blanche drama school),”  cartoonist Sempé’s son, Nicolas, and future singing star  Florent Pagny.
  2. Jean-Paul Comart, La  Balance,  France, 1982.      When Christopher was still Christophe. Le role? Le Belge.
  3. André Dussolier, Trois hommes et un couffin, France, 1985,  Of the three guys in the smash-hit movie, only Michel Boujenah was chosen without question (he won the best supporting César actor; the film  was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar… while Chicago critic Roger Ebert railed against “the stupidity on the screen.”) Jean-Pierre Bacri, Christophe(r) Lambert and Lambert Wilson fled from Jacques, the baby’s father and auteur Coline Serreau booked Jean-Claude Brialy.  Producer Jean-François Lepetit exercised his right to disagree as Brialy was famously gay and no one would believe he’d fathered a child. Brialy quit for Chartlotte Gainbsbourg’s L‘effrontée. André Dussolier was chosen over Christopher Malavoy.   I avoided the Paris Press screening – who needed another horror movie – after mistaking couffin (cradle) for coffin.
  4. François Cluzet, ‘Round Midnight, France, 1986.    “Warners suggested Christophe,” admits Bertrand Tavernier.”But I wanted somebody more fragile… If you saw Christophe listening to the jazz under the rain in an alley, you’d know that intwo or three scenes he’ll get out of that situation. François, being so short, had great difficulty bringing Dexter Gordon home!” Tavernier found Cluzet in the TV series, Julien Fontanes, by one ofhis usual scenarists, Jean Cosmos.
  5. Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte For Ever, France, 1986. A French music legend, Gainsbourg (composer, provocateur, singer, actor),  was directing his third and penultimate flop. He asked Lambert to playh father of his daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg – before deciding he was better suited to the real-life rôle. Lambert was too young, almost too handsome, for Stan. Gainsbourg was better. He could, after all, only play himself. This second Serge-Charlotte screen-meeting followed their 1985 scandalous video-clip for their his-for-her-song, Lemon Incest – and interested 30,000 people at most
  6. Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1986.      In all, 39 possibilities for the  off-kilter, ’Nam vet cop Martin Riggs – not as mentally-deranged as in early drafts (he used a rocket launcher on one guy!)  Some ideas were inevitable: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn (shooting Aliens), Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, William Petersen, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. Some were inspired: ,Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum (he inherited Gibson’s role in The Fly), William Hurt (too dark for Warner Bros), Michael Keaton, Michael Madsen, Liam Neeson, Eric Roberts. Some were insipid: Jim Belushi, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Stephen Lang, Michael Nouri (he joined another cop duo in The Hidden), Patrick Swayze. Plus TV cops  Don  Johnson, Tom Selleck… three foreign LA cops:  Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dutch Rutger Hauer and French Christophe(r) Lambert. And the inevitable (Aussie) outsider Richard Norton.
  7. Kevin Costner, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller – labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert – the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson caught Costner on the cusp of susperstardom (between The Untouchables and Field of Dreams) after seeing if the hero’s US Navy uniform would suit… Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, William Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Michael Nouri, Bill Paxton,  Sean Penn, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis. Even the French Lamber  or…  Robin Williams?!
  8. Burt Reynolds, Malone, 1987.    “Too tired” after Highlander for the French script – rejected by everyone from Gérard Depardieu to Alain Delon and translated into another flop for good ole Burt.
  9. Roddy Piper, They Live, 1987The pitch was fine:Drifter finds some sunglasses that let him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth. And, apparently, the film.  Lousy! Which is probably why 18 other big guns, said nadato being Nada: Lambert, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Dolph Lundgren, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis (plus three mere pistols: Brian Bosworth, Bruce Campbell, Stephen Lang).  And the less said about Russell’s wrestler replacement, the better.“Just John Carpenter as usual,” said the Washington Post,  “trying to dig deep with a toy shovel.”
  10. Timothy Dalton,  The Living Daylights, 1987.

  11. Kevin Costner, Bull Durham, 1987.
    Ron Shelton had one helluva  job trying to win backing for his directing debut. “Baseball? Get outa here. Ball movies don’t sell.”  But his producer Thom Mount was part-owner of the real Durham Bulls squad That helped. He recognised what Roger Ebert would call a sports movie that knows what it is talking about – because it knows so much about baseball and so little about love.” Orion stumped up$9m, eight weeks, creative freedom – the cast cut their costs because of the script. For the minor-league veteran, Crash Davis, Shelton  looked at: Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones (he was baseball icon Ty Cobb in Shelton’s Cobb, 1994), Michael Keaton, Stephen Lang, Nick Nolte (more into football), Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell (who worked on the script with Shelton), Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis – and even three foreigners to the game: Aussie Mel Gibson, French Christophe(r) Lambert and Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Result: more sports from Shelton (basketball, golf, boxing) and more baseball movies from Hollywood: A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out (with Sheen), Field of Dreams (Costner), Major League I and II (Berenger and Sheen).  

  12. Jean-Marc Barr, Le grand bleu, France, 1988.     Luc Besson’s logical first choice:  the star of his first hit, Subway. They liked each other and Besson felt Lambert had a wordly side that suited the deep-sea diving champ. Lambert felt he’d played the role, “man torn between nature and civilisation,” in Greystoke. “He was,” said Besson, “more lucid than I and refused.  The whole thing frightened him somewhat.  And he was, for that reason, right to say no.”
  13. Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, 1989.
  14. Patrick Swayze, Next of Kin, 1989.     Country bumpkins v the Mafia. Again. For the hero of his respun Raw Deal, 1985, UK director John Irvin went from The Obvious Aces: Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… to the Tango and Cash possibles: Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kurt Rusell… plus The Also-Rans: Tommy Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Quaid. And even French Christopher Lambert, Swedish Dolph Lundgren and Belgian Jean Claude Van Damme… for a Chicago cop!
  15. Craig Sheffer, Nightbreed, 1990.      Lambert and Rutger Hauer  were considered for the role of in the film of the Cabal book by Clive Barker – who also  writer-directed.
  16. Jean-Marc Barr, Le brasier, France, 1991.    Still more lucid than the (debuting) director, Lambert probably saw the obvious flop of Eric Barbier’s use of style over content.  It was nine years before Barbier made a second film.
  17. Val Kilmer,  The Doors, 1991.    Unbelievable but there he was, among the many suggestions to play Jim Morrison – until writer-director Olvier Stone made (some) sense of the  biopic.
  18. Eric Stoltz, Money, France-Canada, 1991.     Steven H Stern  announced him as the hero of Paul-Loup Suiltzer’s best-seller due for shooting in January  1986.  Took a smidgen  longer.
  19. Vincent Perez, Cyrano de Bergerac, France, 1990.    Realisateur Jean-Paul Rappenau talked with  him. For  Roxanne’s fancyman, Christian de Neuvillette.
  20. Adrian Paul, Highlander, TV, 1992-1998.    Yes, there should be a series, said Lambert, but not with me in it, merci.  Or pay me $50,000 just for the pilot. Too much, said the Euro backers.  Well, find another MacLeod!   And they did. Checking through Gary Daniels, Geraint Wyn Davies, Anthony De Longis, Alexis Denisof, Alistair Duncan, James Horan, Marc Singer – before Lambert’s Connor MacLeod  (just for the pilot, a three-day job finally for ten times his original demand!) $500,000!) passed the torch to the Conneryesque Paul as Duncan MacLeod…  found by Connor in a bog in the aftermath of the battle of Glen Fruin in 1625.

  21. Patrick Catalifo, Dien Bien Phu, France, 1992.     Realisateur Pierre Schoendoerffer’s documentaryish view of how  the Vietminh beat the French over 57 days in the battle of Dien Bien Phu that America  refused to learn from…
  22. Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993.  There were 30 stars queuing for Die Hard On A Bus. From A Listers Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, even Mr Die Hard, himself, Bruce Willis… to the B group: Kevin Bacon, three Baldwin brothers (Alec, Stephen and William), Michael Biehn, Bruce Campbell, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Quaid, Mickey Rourke, Tom Selleck… and two also-rans  Bruce  Campbell and Chuck Norris.  All crushed by a whippersnapper!
  23. Keanu Reeves, Johnny Mnemonic, 1994.     First film of William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel.
  24. Alain Chabat, Gazon maudit (US: French Twist),  France, 1994.    Exactly what his fast fading schmaction career required – a quirky comedy.  When he pulled out of being Victoria Abril’s womanising husband  (cause of her  lesbian affair with a butch Josiane Balasko auteur of the piece). his timing could not have been worse. His good friend, casting icon Dominique Besnehard,  had just seen how good TV comic Chabat was in A la folie and recommended him to Balasko  Parfait!  (Title? Slang for female pubic hair). Balasko and Lambert linked up the following year in Arlette.
  25. Tom Hulce, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1994.   The Frenchman was in actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s titular take as Henry Clerval. Not. For. Long.
  26. Lothaire Bluteau, Nostromo,  TV, 1997.    In talks with  UK director David Lean before the legend died. And. Lean’s  legacy became a 309 minute tele-mini.
  27. James Remar, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, 1997.    The only name in the $20m debut of the franchise based on the video game, Lambert was keen to reprise Lord Rayden but dates clashed with his Beowulf film. He was then due to return in the next chapter, when Mortal Kombat: Devastation was killed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
  28. Jean Reno, Ronin, 1998.   Difficultr to find a French actor able to hold his own against the Robert De Niro in the Paris thriller. Just why director John Frankenheimer felt Lambert was right has never been explained. Anyway, the Frenchman was not seduced by the script. De Niro suggested Reno, who was more impressed by De Niro than the tale of a Dirty Dozen-cum-Mission: Impossible bunch of ex-secret agents working as ronin – independent samurai, without a master.
  29. Tony Goldwyn,Joshua, 2002.     “Sometimes you have to tear something down in order to build it back up.” The Second Coming has come to Smalltown USA.Or not.
  30. Georges Corraface, La Bicyclette bleue, TV, France, 2000.    The Régine Deforgesnovel was snapped up for a late 80s’ film – with Isabelle Adjani and Lambert as (well) Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, as the book was much, er, influenced by GWTW.An ensuing rights battle was solved in time for the mini-series.

  31. Richard Berry, Corto Maltese, France 2002.    Hugo Pratt, creator of the comicbook hero, insisted Lambert play the sailor-adventurer. However, directorXavier Durring’s adaptation dissipated into a tame and torpidanimation number by Pascal Morelli, with Corto voiced by Berry.
  32. Adrian Paul, Highlander: The Source, TV, 2007.    Paul was done with Duncan MacLeod, feeling the franchise had suicided with the limp Highlander: Endgame, 2000.  The suits made a panic call to Lambert, aka Connor MacLeod from Day One opposite Sean Connery in 1985.  His agent felt this would lead to a bi lpay day. It did not.  So this became the first Highlander sansLambert as the suits turned back to Paul who reluctantly agreed to see if there was any life left in the old dog. Not a jot! MacLeod was no longer immortal. Until the next re-boot.
  33. James Purefoy, Solomon Kane, 2008.   “It’s a very compelling part… ” Seven years earlier, it was M’sieur Highlander being offered another of Conan-creator Robert E Howard’s heroes – a ruthless mercenary turning Puritan adventurer wandering around Europe and Asia in Tudor times. 





 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  33