Christopher Lee Had To Take Promoting The Wicker Man Into His Own Hands
The Independent’s 2020 history of “The Wicker Man” explores how Lee single-handedly saved the movie from obscurity. But why did it fall on him to do this? Because the production studio behind the film, British Lion Films, didn’t have faith in it; they didn’t even host a press screening for the film. When it finally saw release in 1973, as the B-picture on a double bill with “Don’t Look Now,” Lee reached out to every film critic he was acquainted with, asking them to see the movie and even offering to pay for their tickets (his generosity proved unneeded; every critic who agreed paid their own fare). By working his telephone like a salesman, Lee delivered “The Wicker Man” an audience.
Lee’s activism continued when it was time for “The Wicker Man” to expand beyond England. In 1975, the film was distributed in the U.S. by Warner Bros. Lee then traveled the country to publicize the release, all paid for out of his own pocket. After all, Lee hadn’t signed onto the project for the money. As he recounted in the 2001 documentary, “The Wicker Man Enigma”:
“I got paid nothing. I keep repeating to people and they don’t believe it’s true. I’ve got the contract to prove it. Anyway, sometimes you do things for love … If they paid me my normal fee — and everyone else their normal fees — they wouldn’t have been able to make the film.”