Sir Christopher Lee 1922-2015

Screen legend dies aged 93

Sir Christopher Lee 1922-2015

by James Dyer |
Published on

Screen icon and veteran actor Sir Christopher Lee died on Sunday, bringing to an end one of cinema’s most remarkable acting careers. The actor passed at 8:30am, having previously been admitted to hospital with respiratory and pulmonary problems. He was 93 years old.

A former special forces soldier, heavy metal vocalist, author and Empire Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Lee had an acting career that spanned everything from Hammer Horror to James Bond, Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars.

Born in 1922, Christopher Frank Carandini Lee landed his big break in 1957 when he played the monster in Terence Fisher’s The Curse Of Frankenstein. While it wasn’t a star-making turn in itself, he made a big enough impact to become a staple in future Hammer productions, not least the following year’s Dracula, in which he played the role he would become most famous for. Aside from playing the bloodthirsty count a further eight times, Lee would inhabit such iconic horror characters as the Mummy, Fu Manchu and Rasputin over the course of his Hammer career.

Lee once again displayed his horror credentials in 1973, when he took on the role of Lord Summerisle in Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. It was the following year, however, that saw Lee make the leap to what would be come the first of a series of appearances in mainstream mega-franchises, playing Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun. He would go on to appear as Count Dooku in 2002’s Star Wars – Episode II: Attack Of The Clones and Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, and in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy as Saruman The White.

Of all his roles, however, Lee was most proud of 1998’s Jinnah, in which he played Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Speaking to Empire in 2002, he said of the role: “Playing Jinnah was the biggest challenge I've had in my entire career, because there I was for ten weeks in front of his own people and, as you can imagine, the most critical audience in the world. It's the best performance I've ever given by a long, long way.”

Lee was made a CBE in 2001 and a Knight Bachelor in 2009. He is survived by daughter Christina and wife Gitte, whom he was married to for over 50 years.

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