Sir Christopher Lee CBE




With the release eight years later of 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes', Lee became the first actor ever to portray both Holmes and Holmes' brother, Mycroft, onscreen. Other roles of note include the title characters in 1959's The Mummy and the Fu Manchu series of the '60s, and the villainous Scaramanga in the 1974 James Bond film 'The Man With the Golden Gun'.

 

Perhaps my own favourite Hammer film (directed by Terence Fisher) was 'The Devil Rides Out' (1968). Lee plays the Duke du Richelieu an academic and occult specialist seeking to save his friend from the clutches of devil worshipper Charles Gray. Not only is Lees role brilliantly played but also the tension and pace of the film is absolutely excellent. Thoroughly recommended.

In one brilliant casting coup, the actor was co-starred with fellow movie bogeymen Cushing, Vincent Price, and John Carradine in the otherwise unmemorable House of Long Shadows (1982). Established as a legend in his own right, Lee continued working steadily throughout the '80s and '90s, appearing in films ranging from Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) to Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999) - where he plays a marvelous 'hammed up' magistrate. Also notable was his depiction of Flay in the TV mini-series Gormenghast (2000)

Somewhat ironically it was to be the 21st century where Chris Lee would again make his mark in cinemas worldwide. In 2001, after appearing in nearly 300 film and television productions, and been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the international star with the most screen credits to his name, the 79-year-old actor undertook the role of Saruman, a powerful wizard, in director Peter Jackson's eagerly anticipated screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. He was to have a signifcant role in all three films and few could say his depiction of Saruman was not menacing indeed. Unfortunately several of the scenes which Lee appeared in the last film were cut during editing. Unthinkable..

Soon after this he was appearing as Count Dooko in the continuing saga of Anakin Skywalker's journey to the dark side in 2002 with the . Wielding a lightsaber against one of the most powerful adversaries in the Star Wars canon, Lee proved that even at 80 he still had what it takes to be a compelling screen presence. The final sequence battle was not completed wholly by Lee but was a pastiche of action shots – Lee did take a number of the shots himself demonstrating that famous physical prowess was not yrt lost by any means.

It seems that as Lee enters his 80's he is being offered more quality roles than he had in his 60's. Two years ago he almost stole the show over Johnny Depp in 'Charlie and the Chocolate factory' (2005) when he played his father Dr Wonka. In 2009, Lee starred in Stephen Poliakoff's British period drama Glorious 39 with Julie Christie, Bill Nighy, Romola Garai and David Tennant.

Chris was made Sir Chris in the Queens Birthday Honours in 2009 [about bloody time]. He has been married for over 45 years to Gitte.

There is endless trivia on Chris Lee but my favourite is that recently he has been listed as the 'Centre of the Hollywood Universe' by the OracleofKevinBacon web site at the University of Virginia. For those of you not in the know follow the link. This is because he can be linked to any one in Hollywood on average in 2.59 steps. That is less than Kevin Bacon himself - who gave his name to the game...

Quotes

'I occasionally used to pop into Hammer House to say hello, cadge a drink or something and Jim was always great I also used to see a lot of him at Variety Club things, where he did wonderful work. He thoroughly deserved his knighthood'

'I've always acknowledged my debt to Hammer. I've always said I'm very grateful to them. They gave me this great opportunity, made me a well known face all over the world for which I am profoundly grateful'

Autobiographies:
Tall Dark and Gruesome (1997)


Suggested films to see:

Dracula (1958)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Fellowship of the Rings (2001)


 

 

 













 

 

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