Creator / Christopher Lee

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"There are many vampires in the world today — you only have to think of the film business."

Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ, (May 27, 1922 — June 7, 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, and 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 even played 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. See Compelling Voice.

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 widely-seen 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 entirety of it 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 films got around to being made. He has also had a cameo as a member of the church hierarchy in The Golden Compass, so that particular character would probably have turned out to be important had the sequels not been canned.

During World War II, Lee served with the Royal Air Force and intelligence service, and has mentioned in the past that he also served with Special Operations Executive (otherwise known as The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare), although always declined to give specific details. The SOE 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. After the War, he also became a Nazi Hunter, hunting down War Criminals due to being fluent in both French and German.

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 knew 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. He came out with a metal album, called Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. (This had some personal significance for Lee: through his mother—an Italian countess—he could trace his ancestry to Charlemagne himself.) Oh, and he head-banged. The veteran actor said he often throws himself around to heavy metal. ‘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, with a preview released on on May 27, 2012 (Sir Christopher's 90th birthday) and the full album was released on May 27, 2013. The release of his Charlemagne musical marked Christopher Lee as the oldest musician in the history of the metal genre. On his 92nd birthday, he released another album Metal Knight that uses metal covers of other songs to tell a story.

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.

It is interesting to note that, despite his long and illustrious career, Lee was never even nominated for an Oscar, but that reflects more on the Academy than him. He did, however, win the 2011 BAFTA Fellowship. He was also as of his death one of the most prolific film actors ever, having appeared in 280 different works - his last film being Angels in Notting Hill. He had been due to appear in 9/11 drama The 11th alongside Uma Thurman but it was not to be.

Lee died aged 93 on June 7, 2015 at Westminster Hospital in London, after having been admitted for respiratory problems and heart failure; his wife Birgit held back the news of his death until June 11 so that she could inform their family members privately. Upon his death, they had been married just over fifty-four years.

Other facts:

  • Count Magnus Lee, the villain of the first Vampire Hunter D novel and movie, was named after him.
  • He also acted as Iras/the Wizard King Uriel 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 was an expert fencer (he helped teach Oliver Reed to fence), and has appeared in more swashbuckling films than any other actor - almost invariably as the villain. But then...
  • 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, and prior to death, was second to Vince Vaughn with Stephen Fry taking the bronze at 6'4".
  • An awesome Cunning Linguist, Lee was fluent in English, Italian, Frenchnote , Spanish and German, "moderately proficient" in Swedish, Russian and Greek, and "conversational" in Mandarin Chinese.
  • As of June 2015, Christopher Lee was one of the most prolific actors in history, having appeared in more films than any other person in the world, living or dead, except some Indian actors and probably John Carradine. (IMDB lists about 275 acting credits.) The man was an actor for most of his life and was 93 years old when he passed on. 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 was a descendant of Charlemagne. Hence the metal album.note  He was also a distant relative of Robert E. Lee.
  • When he arrived on the set of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, he apologized to director Joe Dante for appearing in Howling II: Stirba: Werewolf Bitch, a bad sequel to Dante's original The Howling.
  • Was asked to play Doctor Loomis in the original Halloween (1978), but turned down the offer. Has subsequently stated he deeply regrets this.
  • Turned down the role of Dr. Harry Rumack in Airplane!, something which he also regreted.
  • 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. It's an awesome film, and a pretty good P.O.V. Sequel to Gandhi.
  • It may not have been 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 the US in an effort to get people to go and see it.
  • He was an avid golfer, and brings up the various people he'd played against several times in his autobiography. It helped that his childhood home was actually in the middle of a golf course.
  • He initially wanted to be in the RAF in World War II, but was grounded due to an optic nerve issue, which he discovered in the worst way possible when his eye started acting up in the middle of a flight. Luckily, his co-pilot was able to take over and land safely.
  • He is one of the few actors to have both played and outlived Rameses the Great. Rameses died at the age of 90, he died at the age of 93.

His HUGE body of work includes:

Film - Live-Action

Live-Action Television

  • 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).
  • Appeared in a miniseries adaptation of Ivanhoe as Lucas de Beaumanoir.
  • Played the wandering wizard Olwyn in The New Adventures of Robin Hood.
  • He played Flay in the BBC miniseries adaptation of Gormenghast.
  • In 2000 at least he has played M.R. James in a series of televised recreations of James's Christmas Eve recitals of Ghost Stories.

Video Games

Western Animation

Music

Tropes associated with Christopher Lee's roles:


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