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Overview for Christopher Lee
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: Cast ... actor office boy
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BIOGRAPHY

er of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), while an American news report named him the "most bankable star in the world" thanks to the successes of his collaborations with Burton, Lucas and Jackson.

Lee showed no signs of slowing down as he approached his ninth decade; with over 200 films to his credit, he was featured in no less than nine films between 2007 and 2009, including "The Golden Compass" (2007) and "Triage" (2009) with Colin Farrell. Lee also enjoyed a popular side career as a voiceover artist for countless animated projects, including "The Last Unicorn" (1982), Burton's "Corpse Bride" and video game tie-ins for "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings," which allowed him to revisit these popular characters. Perhaps most amusing and pleasing for his countless fans were his regular appearances on albums by hard rock, heavy metal and progressive rock bands like Rhapsody of Fire, whose songs tended towards Tolkien-like fantasy. Lee also contributed vocals to recordings of "The King and I," the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and most amusingly, "The Rocky Horror Show," for JAY Records, as well as releasing several solo albums, which found him covering everything from mournful ballads to cowboy songs.

As Lee entered his 90s, his film work continued at a heady pace. He appeared in a voice role as the Jabberwock in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), and in supporting roles in British thriller "The Heavy" (2010) and black comedy "Burke and Hare" (2010). The Nicolas Cage fantasy "Season of the Witch" (2011) was followed by Robin Hardy's follow-up to his 1970s cult classic, "The Wicker Tree" (2011) and Martin Scorsese's Parisian fantasy "Hugo" (2011). Lee reteamed with Burton for the dark comedy "Dark Shadows" (2012) before working again with Peter Jackson as Saruman in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012) and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" (2014). Lee's final completed role came in the fantasy "Angels In Notting Hill" (2014). Following a lengthy respiratory illness, Sir Christopher Lee died of heart failure in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in his native London on June 7, 2015. He was 93.

his high-powered business executive is revealed as a member of a gay biker gang.

But for each of these unique opportunities, it appeared that Lee was being cast in twice as many low-budget horror and science fiction films; many of which made the worst of his efforts for Hammer or Amicus seem like high quality art by comparison. Lee was particularly disappointed by the decision to turn down the role of Dr. Loomis in John Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978), and spoke frequently of his regret in that decision. By the early 1980s, he was finding more rewarding work on American and international television, including the epic HBO miniseries "The Far Pavilions" (1984) and "Shaka Zula" (1986). Lee was also a suitably spooky Blind Pew in Fraser Clarke Heston's adaptation of "Treasure Island," which starred his father Charlton as Long John Silver. Lee also played an elderly Sherlock Holmes in several European-made TV movies, which were shown frequently on American television.

Lee's career began its slow upswing in the early 1990s after almost a decade of bland, even embarrassing film and television projects. He returned to Hollywood with a significant role in J Dante's "Gremlins II: The New Batch" (1990) as a scientist bent on experimenting on the cuddly Gizmo. Though the film was not a success, it did signal a change in fortunes for Lee. A new generation of directors and producers who had grown up with Lee's horror films were eager to cast him in their projects, and the actor - now approaching his seventh decade - found himself not only back in vogue, but exceptionally active. He co-starred with Pierce Bronson and Patrick Stewart as a rogue Russian general who sends mercenaries to hijack a train carrying nuclear weapons in the 1993 TV movie "Death Train," then played the pharaoh Ramses opposite Ben Kingsley's Moses in the TNT miniseries "Moses" (1995) and the blind seer Tiresias in "The Odyssey" (1997) for Hallmark. Lee also gave fitting closure on Hammer Films with the fine documentary, "Flesh and Blood" (1994). Lee shared narration of the project with his longtime friend and fellow horror icon Peter Cushing, who had also achieved his own non-Hammer success with his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in "Star Wars" (1977). However, the recording session would be a bittersweet reunion for the duo, as Cushing died just two months after its completion,.

The 1990s closed out with a starring role for Lee in the Pakistani production "Jinnah" (1998), a biopic about the founder of the country. Though his casting as the fabled leader spurred controversy from elements of the Pakistani media - ironically not because he was an Anglo playing a Pakistani, but more for his association with Dracula! - Lee went on record as saying that he was proudest of the film and the role among all others in his career. The following year saw him play opposite Johnny Depp with a brief role in Tim Burton's Hammer-influenced "Sleepy Hollow" (1999). With this small role, Lee formed yet another mutual admiration society with a young filmmaker. Burton, who had grown up worshipping Hammer films and Lee in particular would cast Lee in three of his films: as the stern, candy-hating father of Willy Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005), and in small roles in "The Corpse Bride" (2005) and "Sweeney Todd" (2007), though Lee's turn as a solo ballad singer was trimmed from the theatrical release in the latter.

As successful as the 1990s proved for Lee, it could not hold a candle to his profile in the new millennium. Lee was offered major supporting roles in two of the biggest movie franchises in film history - he was the evil Sith Lord Count Dooku (a name chosen by George Lucas to honor his Dracula history) in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002) and "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005), as well as the war-mongering wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy: "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), "The Two Towers" (2002) and "The Return of the King" (2003). The "Star Wars" features saw Lee bring the same level of classic Hollywood villainy to the final two entries in the franchise as Peter Cushing did to the 1977 original, and even indulge in several strenuous light saber duels - though many of the more complicated moves were accomplished by digitally transposing Lee's head onto a double. As for "Rings," Lee had been a fan of the books since their release, and was the only member of its sizable cast to actually meet author J.R.R. Tolkien. He lobbied Jackson to let him participate in the films, and though he did not achieve his goal of playing the heroic wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan), he did enjoy the choice role of Saruman, who is corrupted by the forces of evil and leads a vast army against the people of Middle Earth. Both films brought him wide exposure to a new generation of movieg rs who had only seen Lee in late-night TV showings of his Hammer films, if at all. If one was to judge their reaction by his three MTV Award nominations and one win for "Attack of the Clones," it was safe to assume that Lee's star power had not dimmed a bit over the previous six decades. Lee was also twice nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for "Rings" and took home two group awards for the films from the Ph nix Film Critics Society.

Though Lee publicly expressed his disappointment that Saruman's death scene was trimmed from the theatrical release of "Return of the King" (it was later reinstated for the extended DVD version), he was also quick to add his amazement and gratitude at finding himself at the center of two vast, Oscar-winning, record-breaking projects at such a later point in his career. In 2001, England expressed its own gratitude for Lee by appointing him an OBE (Command

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