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Creator / Christopher Lee

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

"I never thought of him as a vampire, ever. I mean, the blood is the life. That's one thing you have to bear in mind. And it is for all of us, isn't it? Here's a man who is immortal. Here is a man who, through being immortal, is a lost soul. Here is a man who experiences the loneliness of evil, something he can't control, who wants to die but there is a force in him, a malefic force, which drives him to do these terrible things. I said earlier the character is heroic, based on the real man — a war leader and a national hero, I may say, in Romania to this day — Vlad the Impaler. Certainly a bloodthirsty character, without a doubt. I also told you that the character is romantic — so he is, as far as women are concerned, and erotic. And there's, of course, the obvious association with the bite in a sexual sense, if you like. So I tried to put all those particular characteristics into the character. It appears that I succeeded."

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ (May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015) was a Belgravia, London-born 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 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 the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy 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 J. R. R. Tolkien 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, Jon Pertwee (the famously gadget obsessed Third Doctor) 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.

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 the historical Charlemagne himself.) Oh, and he head-banged. The veteran actor said he often threw 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 Lee as the oldest musician in the history of the metal genre. On May 27, 2014 (his 92nd birthday) he released another album, Metal Knight, which uses metal covers of other songs to tell a story.

He shared a birthday with Vincent Price, and Peter Cushing's birthday was the day before. Pretty... spooky. Being such good friends, the three of them would often have celebrate jointly in a big two-day party, which must have been an amazing time. 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.
  • As was the Vampire boss in Final Fantasy Adventure.
  • 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 Omniglot, 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. For years, according to the Oracle of Bacon, he (and not Kevin Bacon) was the true centre 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. He subsequently stated he deeply regretted that particular decision.
  • Turned down the role of Dr. Harry Rumack in Airplane!, something which he also regretted.
  • His favourite role (note, Role, not Movie) is that of (The elder) Muhammed Ali Jinnah (The Founder of Pakistan) in the Biopic Jinnah. 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 mentioned 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.
  • When he was young, Lee actually met Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, two of the men involved in the killing of Rasputin, who he would later play.
  • He witnessed the execution of Eugen Weidmann, the last person to be publicly executed in France
  • He served with the Finnish Army during the Winter War, though he never saw combat (There were a number of British volunteers in the Winter War, but they were kept away from the front lines).
  • 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's 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. He is also the only screen actor on record to have played both Rameses the Great and his grandfather Rameses I.
  • He was huge fan of Looney Tunes and used to watch the cartoons with Peter Cushing. They would even imitate the voices and back in the day when the cartoons where showed in theaters, they got thrown out frequently due to their hollering. They continued to watch cartoons together and imitate the voices until Cushing's death.
  • Lee had served in the military during World War II, and would bring his experience into the film whenever relevant. One of the most well-known examples is in The Return of the King's extended edition, in which he is stabbed in the back by Grima Wormtongue. Peter Jackson had wanted him to make a particular scream when stabbed. Lee, however, informed Jackson exactly what sound a man stabbed in the back would make, and demonstrated it on camera in that scene.
  • During the war, he took time to climb Mount Vesuvius. It erupted violently three days later. One cannot help but wonder if it was due to shock from being climbed by Christopher Lee.

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.
  • He appeared twice in The Avengers. The first one as Professor Frank N. Stone and his Duplicate in "Never, Never Say Die", and the second one as Colonel Mannering in "The Interrogators".
  • Played the wandering wizard Olwyn in The New Adventures of Robin Hood.
  • He played Flay in the BBC miniseries adaptation of Gormenghast. In another case of his having met the author, he and Mervyn Peake were casual acquaintances; apparently they were always meeting in Harrods' library when Lee went to borrow books.
  • 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.
  • Had a role in HBO's first major mini-series, an adaptation of The Far Pavilions in 1984.
  • He hosted Saturday Night Live in 1978 (season 3 episode) with musical guest Meat Loaf. Not counting the monologue and introducing the musical guest, Lee was only in three sketches: a My Fair Lady parody where he teaches Gilda Radner's Baba Wawa to speak proper English, a one-off situational sketch where he plays The Grim Reaper who visits a little girl the night her dog died, and a one-off political sketch where he plays a Van Helsing-esque hunter sent to drive a stake in the heart of all the news about the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.
  • He played Sam Rees, the Arc Villain for the fourth story, "The Rameses Connection", of the 90s revival of The Tomorrow People.


Video Games

Western Animation


Tropes associated with Christopher Lee's roles:

  • Affably Evil: Applies to most characters he plays, the dialogue being key.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: He agreed to appear in Death Line in a single scene for minimum wage, solely because he wanted to act with Donald Pleasence. As one of the biggest names in the cast, he even got an And Starring credit despite his small role.
  • Beard of Evil: Became part of his look in his later years.
  • The Cast Showoff: Quite a few films showed off his fencing skills (Count Dooku's 'Makashi' lightsaber form was developed to take advantage of it), and The Return of Captain Invincible shows off his impressive singing pipes.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Oh, most definitely. A side effect of being cast as so many villains. His autobiography talks about his daughter and her friends watching TV and playing a guessing game called "How will Daddy die this time?"
  • Cool Old Guy: While he was famous throughout his entire life, his work in Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings introduced him to a new generation of fans in the early 2000s, despite him being nearly 80 years old at the time.
  • Creator Backlash: While he often had a love-hate relationship with Hammer Studios, eventually he got just plain tired of talking about the Dracula films.
  • Deleted Role: His roles were cut from the films My Brother's Keeper and Saraband for Dead Lovers.
  • Doing It for the Art: He believed in The Wicker Man (1973) so much that he did the film for free. He also paid for the press tour out of his own pocket.
  • Evil Brit: Played 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: He could certainly be bombastic when the role called for it.
  • Evil Old Folks: He could still play menacing, charismatic villains in his eighties and even his nineties.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Definitely.
  • Large and in Charge: Directors often made use of his 6'5" stature by casting him as leaders.
  • Living Legend: Literally everything about his life was remarkable. The son of an Italian countess, through her a direct descendant of Charlemagne, and the cousin of Ian Fleming, he met the assassins of Grigori Rasputin, witnessed the last ever execution by guillotine, was a spy and Nazi hunter, an accomplished fencer, an opera singer, a heavy metal artist, spoke 9 languages, and was the only actor appearing in the Lord of the Rings trilogy to have met J. R. R. Tolkien himself. He was Dracula, Lord Summerisle, Scaramanga, Count Dooku and Saruman the White. You'd be hard-pressed to find any actor with a more amazing life.
  • Multiple Languages, Same Voice Actor: He dubbed King Haggard in the German version of The Last Unicorn for no fee, out of love for the film.
  • Old Shame:
    • He was so ashamed of Howling II: Stirba: Werewolf Bitch, that when he met Joe Dante on Gremlins 2: The New Batch, he apologised to him for being in such a bad sequel to his film.
    • He didn't care for Police Academy: Mission to Moscow either.
    • He disliked the later Hammer Dracula films for how far they strayed from the book. The studio basically had to blackmail him into doing them by accusing him of costing everyone who'd be working on the films a job.
    • The End of the World was another regret.
  • Playing Against Type:
    • Those used to him always playing the monster in all those Hammer Horror films will probably be surprised to see his supporting role as Paul Allen (no, not that one) in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, who is a crass gambler in love with Jekyll's wife, or his role as the threatened Sir Henry Baskerville in the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles.
    • While famous for playing some of the most famous villains in literature such as Dracula and Saruman, he also played Sherlock Holmes, one of the most famous heroes in literature, three times. He is also one of the few actors to have played both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes at various points.
    • He also had a heroic role in The Devil Rides Out, and played a kindly old bookseller in Hugo.
    • His last major film appearance was playing a pre-Face–Heel Turn Saruman in The Hobbit.
  • 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, the founder of's probably easier to mention ethnicities he hasn't played.
  • Production Posse: He 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.
  • Promoted Fanboy: When it came to playing Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, especially as he actually met J.R.R. Tolkien back in the day.
  • Star-Making Role: Frankenstein's monster in The Curse of Frankenstein.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


"The Bloody Verdict of Verden"

From Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. Sir Christopher Lee narrates a rock opera song about Charlemagne's conflicts with the Saxons, and specifically the reprisals for Widukind's revolt.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

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