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Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

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Also Known As: Sir Christopher Lee, Christopher Frank Carandini Lee Died: June 7, 2015
Born: May 27, 1922 Cause of Death: Heart failure
Birth Place: Belgravia, London, City of, GB Profession: actor, office boy

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Self-described with typical good humor as "tall, dark and gruesome," Christopher Lee was a remarkably prolific leading man and character actor whose six decades-long film career made him among the world's most popular and recognizable performers. He languished in bit roles for almost a decade before achieving instant fame as an elegant and sexually charged Count Dracula in "Horror of Dracula" (1958) for England's legendary Hammer Studios. Its success led to almost two decades of fright fare, during which he brought elegance and devilish charm to some of the most memorable figures in horror, including the Frankenstein Monster, the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Fu Manchu. In the 1970s, he grew weary of the typecasting and successfully distanced himself from the genre with roles in Richard Lester's "Three Musketeers" (1973), "Airport '77" (1977), "1941" (1979) and even a deftly comic appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). He remained exceptionally active into the 1980s and 1990s in American and international productions and television, and enjoyed a spectacular third act with significant parts in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" (1998), Episodes II and III of the "Star Wars" saga, and...

Self-described with typical good humor as "tall, dark and gruesome," Christopher Lee was a remarkably prolific leading man and character actor whose six decades-long film career made him among the world's most popular and recognizable performers. He languished in bit roles for almost a decade before achieving instant fame as an elegant and sexually charged Count Dracula in "Horror of Dracula" (1958) for England's legendary Hammer Studios. Its success led to almost two decades of fright fare, during which he brought elegance and devilish charm to some of the most memorable figures in horror, including the Frankenstein Monster, the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Fu Manchu. In the 1970s, he grew weary of the typecasting and successfully distanced himself from the genre with roles in Richard Lester's "Three Musketeers" (1973), "Airport '77" (1977), "1941" (1979) and even a deftly comic appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). He remained exceptionally active into the 1980s and 1990s in American and international productions and television, and enjoyed a spectacular third act with significant parts in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" (1998), Episodes II and III of the "Star Wars" saga, and Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-03). An icon to several generations of fans and filmmakers, Lee's acting career continued into his ninth decade. His death from heart failure at the age of 93 on June 7, 2015, provoked outpourings of warm remembrances from generations of fans and fellow actors.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
4.
 Wicker Tree, The (2012)
5.
 Dark Shadows (2012)
7.
 Resident, The (2011)
8.
 Burke and Hare (2011)
9.
10.
 Hugo (2011)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1948:
Film debut, as Charles in "Corridor of Mirrors"
1948:
Appeared as a Palace Guard in Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet"; first film with actor Peter Cushing
1948:
First of 12 films with director Terence Fisher, "A Song For Tomorrow"
1951:
Acted in Raoul Walsh's "Captain Horatio Hornblower"
1957:
Breakthrough role as the Creature in Fisher's "The Curse of Frankenstein"; also starred Peter Cushing
1958:
Portrayed the sadistic Marquis St Evremonde in "A Tale of Two Cities"
1959:
Took on title role of "The Mummy"; Fisher directed and Cushing co-starred
1959:
First foray into Sherlock Holmes genre, playing Sir Henry Baskerville in Fisher's "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
1965:
Played Fu Manchu (first of five portrayals) in "The Face of Fu Manchu"
1965:
Second time around as Dracula in Fisher's "Dracula ¿ Prince of Darkness"
1966:
Brilliantly over-the-top as Rasputin in "Rasputin - the Mad Monk"
1968:
Last film with Fisher, "The Devil Rides Out"
1969:
Teamed with Vincent Price for "The Oblong Box"
1970:
Joined Price and Peter Cushing for "Scream and Scream Again"
1970:
Portrayed Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes"; the only actor to have played both brothers
1972:
Formed Charlemagne Production with Anthony Nelson Keys
1973:
Reteamed with Cushing for third and final pairing as Dracula-Von Helsing in "Satanic Rites of Dracula" (released in United States as "Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride")
1974:
Played Comte de Rochefort in Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers"
1975:
Reprised Rochefort role for Lester's "The Four Musketeers"
1977:
Appeared in "Airport '77" as famous oceanographer Martin Wallace
1978:
Portrayed the mad scientist Victor in Disney's "The Return from Witch Mountain"
1979:
Provided voices for the animated feature "Nutcracker Fantasy"
1979:
Did a final turn as Rochefort in Lester's "The Return of the Musketeers"
1979:
Acted in Steven Spielberg's "1941"
1980:
Delivered a comic turn as a gay biker in the feature film "Serial"
1981:
Cast as Chuck Norris' nemesis in "An Eye for an Eye"
1982:
Portrayed Prince Philip in the ABC movie "Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story"
1982:
Last film with Cushing, "The House of Long Shadows"
1984:
Acted the part of Kaka-ji Rao in the HBO miniseries "The Far Pavilions"
1986:
Played Lord Bathurst in the syndicated miniseries "Shaka Zulu"
1989:
Cast as Andrew Stuart in the NBC miniseries "Around the World in 80 Days"
1990:
Underwent a two-hour makeup transformation for his portrayal of Blind Pew in Fraser Heston's adaptation of "Treasure Island"
1992:
Reprised role of Sherlock Holmes for two syndicated miniseries' "Sherlock Holmes: Incident at Victoria Falls" and "Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady"
1992:
Director John Landis integrated footage from "Horror of Dracula" into his "Innocent Blood"; gave both Lee and Cushing credits in the film
1993:
Cast as the disaffected Soviet military leader General Konstatin Benin in the USA Network movie "Alistair MacLean's Death Train"
1996:
Played Pharaoh to Ben Kingsley's Moses in the TNT miniseries "Moses"
1996:
Portrayed the Evil Sender in John Landis' "The Stupids"
1997:
Appeared as Tiresias in the NBC miniseries "The Odyssey"
1998:
Portrayed the title role in "Jinnah," a biopic of the founder of Pakistan
1999:
Played a burgermeister in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow"
2002:
Reprised Saruman role in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
2003:
Again portrayed Saruman in the third and final "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
2005:
Reprised role of Count Dooku in "Star Wars: Episode III ¿ Revenge of the Sith"
2005:
Played Willy Wonka's (Johnny Depp) father in Tim Burton's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic tale "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
2007:
Collaborated with Burton for a fourth time on "Sweeney Todd," playing the spirit of Sweeney Todd's victims called The Gentleman Ghost
2008:
Voiced Count Dooku in the animated feature "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"
2010:
Re-teamed with Burton for a fifth time for "Alice in Wonderland" as the villainous Jabberwock
2012:
Returned to Middle Earth as Saruman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and directed by Peter Jackson
2012:
Released a trilogy of Christmas-themed heavy metal EPs
2014:
Appeared in his final on-screen role, as Saruman in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"
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Education

Wellington College: -

Notes

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 2001.

Christopher Lee's staggering number of screen credits represents "more than any other international actor still performing his or her craft, according to the Guiness Book of World Records." Of course, Lee is careful to add, "That may or may not be true, I have no idea." --Christopher Lee, quoted in press material for "Alistair MacLean's Death Train"

Lee is fluent in Franch, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Swedish, Danish and Greek, as well as English.

He became an Officier, Ordre des Arts et Lettres (France), in 1973. During World War II, he received the Polania Restituta and Czechoslovak medal for valor.

"The only character I played over-the-top, though, because there was no alternative, was Rasputin [in Rasputin--the Mad Monk, 1966] ... [As far as Fu Manchu] I had to restrain myself there, because I didn't want to offend Oriental people. I tried to play Fu Manchu the way he was described in the books--as a man of giant intellect, totally cold and inhuman, but with great dignity. I must say, however, that the most irritating makeup is the 'Chinese eye.' That's murder." --Christopher Lee in Interview, June 1996.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Birgit Kroencke. Model. Married in 1961.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Geoffrey Trollope Lee. Lieutenant-colonel in the British Army.
mother:
Estelle Marie Lee. Italian contessa.
step-cousin:
Ian Fleming. Author. Creator of "James Bond" novels; Lee's mother, after divorcing his father, married the brother of Ian Fleming's mother; the two used to play golf together, but Fleming had already passed on by the time the actor played the title villain of "The Man With the Golden Gun" (1974).
daughter:
Christina Erika Lee.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror" Pyramid Books
"Christopher Lee's New Chamber of Horrors" Souvenir Press
"Christopher Lee's Archives of Terror" Warner Books
"Tall, Dark, and Gruesome" W.H. Allen & Co.
"Lurking Shadows: An Anthology" W.H. Allen & Co.
"The Great Villains"
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