Known for his roles of Connor MacLeod and Lord Rayden, Christopher Lambert returns to movies with the seventh film of the Kickboxer franchise, Kickboxer Retaliation. The film sees Lambert take on one of his only villain roles in his career as fight organiser Thomas Moore. The film arrives on digital download on Friday 26th January, with a DVD and Blu-ray release on 5th March 2018.
Late last year, in the run-up to Christmas, we received a phone call from Mr Lambert and talked at length about his new project, the legacy of Highlander, his thoughts on the proposed reboot, and his desire to direct. Read the full interview now.
So Christopher, how did you get involved with Kickboxer Retaliation?
I met with the director, he explained to me what he wanted to do. I read the script, I thought it was cool to be a bad guy finally. I’ve mostly played good guys. I wanted to understand how a bad guy’s mind is working; trying to bring some humour to the character, trying to bring an ironic side to him.
The story was good, the action and the fights were really incredible. Everything that was made is completely real. There is no wire, there is no CGI, special effects or whatever. These two guys are really fighting. Being thrown from left to right, top to bottom. and sometimes they hurt themselves, but they keep on going. I learned, for example, Alain Moussi was giving a thousand percent of what he could to make the fights incredible. So all this put together, I thought why not? I’m at a time in my career… I’ve done like 85 movies so I can choose what I want to do, when I wanted to do it.
After Kickboxer I did another film that’s not out yet called Bel Canto with Julianne Moore. It’s a completely different movie, but that’s what I wanted to make that day. For the next few years I want to get a feel for everything. Do a major science fiction movie or a small intimate movie, try to touch different things that I have been doing for the last forty years.
Can you tell us a little bit about the story and how your character fits into it?
Basically Alain Moussi was in Kickboxer Vengeance and was freed, but the organiser of these fights, me, is not thinking the same way. So he kidnaps his wife, throws him in jail and tells him – it’s a simple plot – if you want to see your wife alive, you’re going to have to fight one more time to the death. Otherwise you’ll both die. So he’s got to fight and he’s fighting this huge guy, a kickboxer champion who was in Game of Thrones, he’s like 7’1 7″2 – he’s huge! He’s fighting this guy and obviously he doesn’t stand a chance, he’s going to be destroyed by this guy etc. etc. etc. It’s a pure action kickboxing movie.
This is the seventh Kickboxer film, why do you think that audiences continue to want to watch these films. What makes them so popular?
It’s funny that you ask that because I was going to say that to you. I was going to say that there is an audience for every type of movie. The Kickboxer became a cult movie. Is it because of Jean-Claude, is it because Van Damme did something that we got used to in the sixties? When I was a kid – twelve years old or so – I started to watch Bruce Lee and this genre of movie kind of disappeared. It came back with Kickboxer, it came today with all the cage fighting. So there is a big audience out there watching these fighters, like you know wrestling – you could do a movie about wrestling. You’ve got hundreds and millions of fans all over the world. It’s the same with kickboxing, with cage fighting, and stuff like that. Some people are going to hate it because it’s violent and some people are going to love it. There’s an audience for every type of movie. If you don’t like action, if you don’t like fighting, then Kickboxer is not for you. But it might be for your neighbour etc. etc. The fact that it became a cult in the eighties, I think thirty years later, you can do reboot without any problem.
Speaking of reboots, you’re best known from the Highlander series. Are you happy with the proposed reboot?
Yeah, why not, if it’s well made. The thing is, they’ve been talking about this reboot for like seven years – thousands of scripts. I think this time they’ve got a really good director who’s got a really good vision of what a Highlander reboot should be about, that’s for sure. After that, if I’m a part of it I’ll be happy, if I’m not part of it, I’ll be happy.
So have you seen the John Wick films, is that what make you think Chad Stahelski would be a good fit?
Yeah I’ve seen them, yeah of course! I think the action is extremely well filmed and choreographed.
Maybe you could do a trade, you appear in Highlander to bring in the original fans, and he gives you a part in John Wick 3 so that you can have a bit of a ruckus with Keanu.
(Laughs) That’s interesting – why not?!
Another role you’re well known for, and is one of my favourite guilty pleasures, is Mortal Kombat. What was it like playing the God of thunder?
It was fun because first of all I didn’t have to do a lot of training for the movie. I was happy about that because the guy just had to look at you, or point his finger and there you go flying away. So that was good because the training for the three main characters was very, very heavy. It was just fun. I’d played the video game so I knew about it.
The script was fun, the cast was fun. For me that’s the purpose of making movies. You’ve gotta be entertained to be able to entertain. So most of my movies I had a lot of fun doing them. I believe it shows on the screen. It could be a drama, it could more comedic, it doesn’t matter – if you don’t have fun the audience is not going to have fun. Fun… when I’m saying fun… is entertainment. You can’t fake things; you have to feel them. It has to be in you, and that’s the only way you can be believable.
Like I say, Mortal Kombat is a film I adore, I know every line, every move. So do my friends. I imagine you get told this kind of thing a lot with your films…
It’s funny because Highlander went over three generations. Today I have twelve / fifteen year old kids who have been watching Highlander because their father was a Highlander fan. He was a fan because the father of the father was a Highlander fan, so we’ve got an audience that’s going from twelve to sixty and more sometimes.
Again the atmosphere on set, the creative side of Russel Mulcahy – his imagination, everything he was putting in the movie as director, everything the actors were putting in the movie – made something magical that you cannot control. You have no idea when you are doing it, that it will be this big thing.
Queen was meant to do the song for the opening credits that’s all, one song. They sat in the movie theatre in a private screening for them, they came out and Freddie Mercury said – ‘I’m doing the whole album for this movie’. It took him four weeks to write the songs and then they went straight into the studio, and the album was out. It’s one of the biggest selling albums of Queen.
It’s a great soundtrack.
Incredible. So you have to combine everything together and finally you have a result that we’re looking at it saying – ‘oh it’s fine’, but we hard no idea. You don’t think about that while you’re doing it.
Can you remember what drew you to the part originally?
I was attracted to the story much more because of the questions that you can have about immortality, than by the action in the movie. For me the action is secondary, even though it’s exceptionally well made. What’s really interesting is the combination of the romantic side of immortality touching the action side that’s been put in the story. That’s what I’m missing today. Today a lot of action movies are lacking that romanticism, the sensitive moments. It’s almost like the filmmakers are saying, ‘No, no you’re a big boy, you’re strong, no you can’t cry.’ Why Not?!
You have that, and I’m watching all these movies, action and stuff. I like the genre, but we’ve got to be careful as looking at a lot of action I have the feeling that you’re watching a video game. You’re not watching a human being killing people or defending his life – or whatever he’s doing – you have the feeling that you are inside a video game. That’s not the purpose of a TV show or a film.
In addition to acting you’ve tried your hand at producing and writing, is that something that you would want to do more of?
It’s something that I did a lot in the early nineties till the beginning of the 21st century. Then I stopped producing. During that period I produced about twenty movies, then I stopped for a while and went back to production three years ago. I need a partner to do that. I’m not going to be on the set everyday. I’ve got so many different things, businesses and stuff going on, that I can do that if I have a partner running the day to day operations. Is it something that I want to do more? Maybe, but I still need to find the right partner.
Would you ever consider directing, does that interest you?
Yeah. So I have one movie that I want to direct. The story happens in London as a matter of fact. It’s a movie that I’ve been working on for the last twenty five years. I’ve been re-writing and writing it with different writers and by myself. I think the movie script is finally ready, or I am finally ready…. Maybe I was just trying to push the time where I was going to direct that movie, that could be possible. If I do one movie, it’s got to be this one. It’s a love story. I’m very impatient, so I’m afraid that I can for sure do one movie, but to spend two years roughly on the same movie, I’m not sure I can do that many times.
Directing is quite an all consuming role isn’t it?
Yeah, the director is first on the set which is fine because I get up early, but he’s also the last to leave. He’s got to do scouting after the shooting, or you’ve got to talk about the scene the following day. It’s a tough job, but I wanna try. It would be stupid after roughly thirty-five years of career… I would be sad if I didn’t try to direct at least once.
Where can fans see you next?
So they can see me in Bel Canto which is the movie that I did with Julianne Moore, directed by Paul Weitz.
Can you share any plot details?
It’s a true story. It’s based on a US bestseller called Bel Canto – the same title. It happens in the nineties; at the time, the biggest soprano in the world was invited by this Japanese businessman to Colombia where he was doing a major business deal. So this guy said to the Colombian, I’ll do the deal I’ll give you the money for whatever infrastructure, but I would like an evening with that Soprano so she can sing. This guy is crazy about opera. The President says okay no problem, I’m going to try. They succeed and that’s where the movie opens. The Opera singer is singing and after two minutes of singing the guerrillas come in to kidnap the President. The only problem is that the President didn’t show up that night because he was watching his favourite TV show. So now they’re fucked.
What they do is they get rid of the women, they keep the men and the Soprano and these people, on one side the high society, and on the other the poor people, live together for 96 days. So it’s a constant combination of love, hate, danger, fight, comedy, drama, and the realisation that if you’re not born on the right side of the border, your life would be very different. It’s a realisation from these quote rich people on one side and the poor people on the other. It brings a lot of emotion, a lot of sensitive moments. It was a great shoot. It’s a great script, the book is great too.
Kickboxer Retaliation is available on digital download from Friday 26th January 2018. You can purchase on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 5th March 2018.