Christopher Lee

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"Wait, I think I can hear Peter Cushing."

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, (1922-2015) was a veteran British actor who initially made his name playing villains - most famously Count Dracula in Hammer Horror films (although he was a hero in The Devil Rides Out). He became well known for his horror work, and was good friends with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing; the three were known as the "Unholy Trinity of Horror" for a while. During the 1970s, he also played Lord Summerisle in the original version of The Wicker Man and Francisco Scaramanga in the film version of one of his cousin (and war buddy, but more on that later) Ian Fleming's books, The Man With The Golden Gun. He's even been a leader of a gang of gay bikers in the satire on American life Serial. His piercing eyes and melodious bass voice made him instantly recognizable.

Although he never stopped acting, famous roles dried up a little during the 1980s and 1990s, until he returned with a vengeance, playing villains again in two of the most popular and influential movie series of the new century: Count Dooku in Star Wars and Saruman the White in The Lord of the Rings. He was the only member of the Lord of the Rings cast to have met the author in person and was an avid scholar of Tolkien's work (he apparently read the entire trilogy once every year), often advising Jackson and Boyens on some of the finer points of the backstory. He wanted to play the role of Gandalf but he felt he was too old for the role when the films were finally made. He has also had a cameo as a member of the church hierarchy enemy faction in The Golden Compass, so that particular character would probably have turned out to be important had the sequels not been canned. (Lord Boreal, maybe?)

During World War II, Lee served with the Royal Air Force and intelligence service; he mentioned in the past that he also served with Special Operations Executive, as well as a secret agent unit called The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. The Ministry was set up by Churchill to "set Europe ablaze", and it included - among others - Christopher Lee and Ian Fleming, making it the obvious inspiration for the James Bond series. So there's a good reason that Lee was cast in one of the film versions.

During the filming of The Lord of the Rings, he disagreed with Peter Jackson over certain aspects of his character's death scene, insinuating that he knows firsthand the sound a man makes when he's stabbed in the back (see Reality Is Unrealistic). Take that as you will.

While known primarily as an actor, Lee also trained as an operatic bass-baritone singer. Some things you just can't make up. In 2010 he came out with a metal album, called Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. Some things are just too awesome for words. Oh, and he head-bangs: ‘I do head-banging every day,’ he said. ‘Exercising my neck muscles is good for my back. I can do it with or without music.' By the Sword and the Cross has a follow up called Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, released on May 27, 2012 (Sir Christopher's 90th birthday).

He was born on the same day as Vincent Price, and Peter Cushing was born the day before. Pretty... spooky. He was knighted on October 31, 2009 (that's right folks, Halloween). While this does not make him more excellent per se, it was most assuredly long overdue. Everyone, please say, Sir Christopher Lee.

Alas, he passed away on June 7, 2015 at the age of 93 from respiratory problems and heart failure. His legacy, however, continues to endure.

It is interesting to note that, despite his long and illustrious career, Lee had never even been nominated for an Oscar, but that reflects more on the Academy than him. He has, however, won the 2011 BAFTA Fellowship. He is also as of this writing the most prolific film actor ever, having appeared in 274 different works.

Other facts:

  • Count Magnus Lee, the villain of the first Vampire Hunter D novel and movie, was named after him.
  • He also acts as the wizard Iras Algor, in Rhapsody of Fire‍'‍s epic The Dark Secret saga.
  • He was an uncredited stunt driver in The Man with the Golden Gun, in addition to playing the title role.
  • He is an expert fencer, and has appeared in more swashbuckling films than any other actor - almost invariably as the villain.
  • The Guinness Book of World Records listed him as the world's "Tallest Leading Actor" at 6'5". He lost a bit of that height to old age, falling second to Vince Vaughn. Stephen Fry takes the bronze at 6'4".
  • An awesome Cunning Linguist, Lee was fluent in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German, "moderately proficient" in Swedish, Russian and Greek, and "conversational" in Mandarin Chinese. He's even said to have spoken the dark tongue of Mordor.
  • As of April 2010, Christopher Lee was the most prolific actor in history, having appeared in more films than any other person in the world, living or dead. (IMDB lists over 250 acting credits.) As a result, according to the Oracle of Bacon it is he, and not Kevin Bacon, who is the true center of the Hollywood Universe. Despite this fact, the trope-related attribute is still named the Bacon Number and not the Lee Number. Having said that, Lee Number just doesn't sound as funny as Bacon Number, so this is excusable.
  • He is a direct descendant of Charlemagne. Hence the metal album.
  • When he arrived on the set of Gremlins 2, he apologized to director Joe Dante for appearing in The Howling II, a bad sequel to Dante's original Howling.
  • Was asked to play Doctor Loomis in the original Halloween, but turned down the offer. Has subsequently stated he deeply regrets this.
  • His favorite role (note, Role, not Movie) is that of (The elder) Muhammed Ali Jinnah (The Founder of Pakistan) in the Biopic Jinnah. Watch it here. Its an awesome film, and a pretty good POV Sequel to Gandhi.
  • It may not be his favourite movie, but he did everything in his power to promote The Wicker Man, offering to pay the ticket price for critics to get them to review it, and touring America in an effort to get people to go and see it.

Christopher Lee has performed in the following roles:

Film - Live-Action

Live-Action TV

  • He was the traditional voice actor for Death in Discworld adaptations including Sky One's The Colour of Magic, but not Hogfather (which had the late Ian Richardson, who did a great job as well).


Video Games

Western Animation

Christopher Lee provides examples of the following tropes: