"There are many vampires in the world today — you only have to think of the film business."Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
(May 27, 1922-) is 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'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. 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 reads 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). 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 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.
He recently 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
. The veteran actor says 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 marks 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 has 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.
- 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. But then...
- The Guinness Book of World Records listed him as the world's "Tallest Leading Actor" at 6'5". He's lost a bit of that height to old age, and is now second to Vince Vaughn. Stephen Fry takes the bronze at 6'4".
- An awesome Cunning Linguist, Lee is 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 speak the dark tongue of Mordor.
- As of September 2012, Christopher Lee is one of the most prolific actors in history, having appeared in more films than any other person in the world, living or dead, except probably John Carradine. (IMDB lists about 275 acting credits.) The man's been an actor for most of his life and is 92 years old. 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.note He is also a distant relative of Robert E. Lee.
- 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 (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 regrets.
- 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 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 the US in an effort to get people to go and see it.
His works include: Film - Live-ActionLive-Action Television
Video GamesWestern AnimationMusic
- He is 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.
Tropes associated with Christopher Lee
- Badass: The guy was a member of the SOE during World War 2. On the set of The Lord of the Rings, he was able to describe the exact sound a guy made when stabbed, because this is something he's actually done.
- Chronically Killed Actor: Yup. A side effect of being cast as so many villains. His autobiography talks about his kids watching TV and playing a guessing game called "How will Daddy die this time?"
- Cool Old Guy: "Utterly Badass Old Guy", more like.
- Evil Brit: Plays this role several times.
- Evil Is Bigger: It's easier to get villainous roles when you're 6'5" (1.96 m).
- Evil Is Hammy/Large Ham: He can certainly be bombastic when the role calls for it.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Definitely.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: A well-spoken and consummate gentleman who's played some of the most memorable villains in movie history.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Vampire Sith Lord Dark Wizard Pagan Cult Leader Bond Villain Metalhead Nazi stabber!
- Omniglot: As mentioned above, he is fluent in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German; has proficiency in Swedish, Russian, Finnish, and Greek; and is at least conversational in languages as varied as Afrikaans, Zulu, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Swahili!
- Plays Great Ethnics: Early in his career he had trouble finding roles as Englishmen because casting directors thought his Italian heritage made him look too "foreign". As a result, he's played Germans, Italians, French, Arabs, Chinese...it's probably easier to mention ethnicities he hasn't played.
- Sturgeon's Law: Yeah, about that being the most prolific film actor ever? An awful lot of it is awful crap even he would advise you not to watch.
- Those Two Actors: He worked with Peter Cushing in an astonishing twenty-two movies together. Their first two films were Hamlet (1948) and Moulin Rouge (1952), two major Class-A productions where they both had minor roles where their characters never met. Then they co-starred in The Curse of Frankenstein (Cushing was Frankenstein, Lee was the Monster) and a beautiful partnership, and friendship, was made.
- He also had a very healthy working relationship with director Terence Young, who gave Lee his first acting role (in the 1948 film Corridor of Mirrors) and directed him in several other small-to-medium sized roles before Lee received his big break in The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula.
- What Could Have Been:
- He was supposed to play Dr. No in the film of the same name but the filmmakers chose Joseph Wiseman instead.
- He was also offered Leslie Nielsen's role in Airplane, but turned it down because he had trouble understanding the script.
- Both Lee and Peter Cushing were offered the role of Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978). Lee has since said that turning down the role was one of the worst mistakes he's made in his career.
- Wicked Cultured: Many of his characters.