Legendary actor Christopher Lee has passed away at 93. The Guardian reported he died on Sunday due to respiratory problems and heart failure.
Born in 1922 and serving in the Royal Air Force as an intelligence officer in World War II, Lee was best known for being the master of horror, often playing villains or, at least, morally grey characters. About his penchant for these roles, Lee said: “I haven’t spent my entire career playing the guy in the bad hat, although I have to say that the bad guy is frequently much more interesting than the good guy.”
His career was long and varied – IMDB credits him with 281 acting roles. However, his tall stature and deep, resonating voice lent themselves well to his most classic role: Dracula.
First appearing in 1958’s Horror of Dracula, he would go on to play the role of the blood-sucking Count at least eight more times.
While Dracula catapulted his career, it certainly didn’t end there. In the 1960s, he would go on to play Dr. Fu Manchu and in 1975 he would play Lord Summerisle in his favorite thriller film, The Wicker Man.
As the rogue Rochefort in both The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), he would prove himself an adept swordsman.
Another notable villainous role for him was assassin Francisco Scaramanga in the 1974 Bond flick, The Man With the Golden Gun.
For my generation, Lee became a well-known name when he was cast in two massive franchises: Star Wars, as the nefarious Sith Lord Count Dooku, and both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as the equally dark Saruman.
Those last films were especially special for Lee, who was a passionate J.R.R. Tolkien fan and the only cast member who met the author.
Acting wasn’t his only passion. Lee was a self-professed lover of music and at 88, debuted his first heavy metal album: Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.
He released his autobiography, Tall, Dark, and Gruesome in 1977, although a revised and expanded edition, titled Lord of Misrule, was published in 2004.
He is survived by his wife, Birgit “Gitte” Kroencke Lee, whom he married in 1961, and their daughter.