Christopher Lee, Known for Villainous Roles, Dies
On Sunday, the physically towering British movie actor, Christopher Lee, who had lent his aristocratic presence, Shakespearean voice and distinguished good looks to a gallery of nightmarish villains, died in London, at the age of 93. The master of macabre had brought to life roles such as that of a dreaded wizard in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and a seductive ‘Count Dracula’. His death was confirmed by an official for the Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington. Mr. Lee had been 35-years-old in 1957 when his breakthrough film, ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ was released.
He played the creature in this British horror movie directed by Terrence Fisher. However, his identity became forever associated with Bram Stoker’s ravenous and noble vampire a year later when he assumed the title in ‘Dracula’, again with Mr. Fisher. His characterization added a rather lascivious sex appeal to the character. In 2007, the film was reissued and he again garnered a lot of praise and appreciation for his portrayal of the count. Even his 70s and 80s, Mr. Lee proved that he was a master of macabre as he could still strike fear in the audience.
In the Star Wars installments, which included the 2002 Episode II: Attack of the Clones and 2005 Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, he played the role of the light-saber-wielding and treacherous villain Count Dooku. Also, in the Hobbit and ‘Lord of the Ring’ movies, Mr. Lee played the role of the charismatic yet dangerous wizard Saruman, who was hell-bent on destroying the world. He played roughly 250 roles, both television and movie combined and only 15 of them were in horror movies. 10 of these were mostly outings of Dracula, with one being the Mummy and one being Frankenstein’s monster.
Nevertheless, even other chracters he played were downright terrifying. In the 1996 movie, ‘Rasputin: The Mad Monk’, Mr. Lee played the title character. In Steven Spielberg’s movie called ‘1941’, which was released in 1979, he acted as a Nazi officer. In the 1974 movie ‘The Three Musketeers’, he starred at the swashbuckling assassin named Rochefort. ‘The Man in the Golden Sun’, which was released in 1966, Mr. Lee played the role of Sacramunga, the Bond villain. His other roles included that of a mad scientists in the 1990 movie ‘Gremlin II’ and also the lead role of Chinese criminal mastermind in about five Fu Manchu movies that were released.
Apart from these roles, Mr. Lee also played some quite yet powerful roles. In 1998, he played the role of Pakistan’s dying founder in the movie ‘Jinnah’; in 1970, in “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”, he was Sherlock Holmes’s brother. In 1982, he also starred in a television film called “Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story” in which he played Prince Phillip. One of Mr. Lee’s favorite roles was in the 1973 movie, ‘The Wicker Man’, in which he played the hedonistic pagan leader who advocates human sacrifice, public nudity and free love.
Mr. Lee also embarked upon a career in music in the 1990s with recordings and concerts and also released two albums, but he didn’t give up on acting. He appeared in the movie Dark Shadow in 2012 and also reprised his role as Saruman in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequels, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. He also played the same role in the third Hobbit movie that was called “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”. He married in 1961 to a model named Birgit Kroencke, who later took upon acting under the name of Gitte Lee. The couple had a daughter named Christina.