Entertainment & Arts

Depp surprises Sir Christopher Lee with film award

Sir Christopher Lee and Johnny Depp
Image caption Sir Christopher was overwhelmed to receive his award from Depp

Hammer horror star Sir Christopher Lee said it was a "very emotional moment" when he received his British Institute Fellowship from his friend Johnny Depp.

He tearfully accepted the award at the London Film Festival, saying: "I didn't know you were going to be here. I must try and pull myself together."

The prize for best film went to to Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida, about German occupation of Poland and the Holocaust.

Screenwriter Jonathan Asser won best British newcomer.

He took the accolade for his debut feature Starred Up, about the practice of placing violent young offenders prematurely in adult prison.

BFI fellow and film critic Philip French said of Ida that the jury was "deeply moved by a courageous film that handles, with subtlety and insight, a painfully controversial historical situation".

Sir Christopher, 91, who described receiving his award as "a great joy", is famed for his villainous portrayals of Bond bad guy Scaramanga and evil wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings.

He has amassed more than 250 screen credits, including The Wicker Man, The Man with the Golden Gun and more recently, several Tim Burton films including Sleepy Hollow, which starred Depp. He also played Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels.

Depp, who sneaked into the awards ceremony to surprise his friend, said it was his "great honour" to present the award to "a very great man", saying he had been "fascinated and inspired" by him.

"He's been a wonderful individual and over the years I've had the pleasure of working with him and it has been a childhood dream come true," he said.

"But as great as it is to work with him, that pleasure doesn't compare with getting to know him and being able to count him as a true friend.

"A national treasure and a genuine artist. I love ya!"

Sir Christopher responded by saying: "I can't thank you enough," in reference to Depp, who he had been told could not make the occasion as he was elsewhere.

He went on : "When I take a look back, and it's a long one, 67 years, at the characters I've played I get a truly strange feeling they were all played by somebody else, and not by me.

"And there are a few occasions when it has been the case I wish it had!"

Image caption Pawel Pawlikowski was hailed for his film Ida

He said of Depp: "He means an enormous amount to me. He is one of very few young actors on screen today who's truly a star.

"Everything he does has a meaning. He's a joy to work with, an actor's dream and certainly a director's dream. I could go on a long time but I'd probably embarrass him."

The festival presented the Sutherland Award, for the most original and imaginative film debut, to Anthony Chen, who directed Ilo Ilo, which explores the life and vulnerabilities of a modern affluent family in Singapore.

The Grierson award for the best documentary went to Paul-Julien Robert's My Fathers, My Mother and Me, a portrayal of life in Friedrichshof, the largest commune in Europe, which was founded in the 70s.

The film reveals the devastating emotional effects of life there on its residents, and jury president Kate Ogborn said the "disturbing film" raised "larger questions of power, parental responsibility and abuse".

Hanks on playing Disney

The film festival closes later with the world premiere of Saving Mr Banks, a dramatisation of the making of 1964 movie Mary Poppins starring Emma Thompson as author PL Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.

Hanks appeared at Bafta's London headquarters on Saturday to give a Life in Pictures talk, during which he revealed some of the difficulties he faced playing "Uncle Walt" on screen.

"Walt Disney died of lung cancer; he smoked three packs a day," the two-time Oscar winner told host Francine Stock.

"But can we show him smoking in a major motion picture these days? No way in hell.

"It's this thing that has happened in movies - real people can't smoke. We literally had a negotiation over whether I could hold a lit cigarette in a scene."

Lack of 'mystery'

In a wide-ranging discussion covering his 30-year film career, Hanks said his success was partly down to his not having "a bigger-than-life persona".

"I'm charming as hell, but I don't strike fear and I don't have a huge amount of mystery," he explained.

"You're not worried about me killing you, or stealing your daughter, or being some sort of criminal mastermind.

"I view myself as a guy that if I had been a good student, I could be a historian," he continued. "And if I had been good at science, I could be a doctor.

"I'm not good at any of those things so I'm an actor. These movies, these roles, they're always something that - if I was a little more accomplished - I could be that guy."

Hanks can currently be seen in cinemas in Captain Phillips, which opened the London Film Festival on 9 October. Saving Mr Banks is out in the UK on 29 November.

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