Sir Christopher Lee, the actor known for Hammer horror movies of the 1950s, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and James Bond died on Sunday, June 7, 2015. His wife, Lady Lee, delayed the announcement until close family members were informed. He passed away at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Lee was 93 years old.
He is survived by his wife Birgit, who he had been married to since 1961 and their daughter, Christina.
Lee was born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee in London on May 27, 1922. Before serving in World War II he worked in an office job at Beechams. After the war he decided to become an actor rather than returning to an office environment. His acting career began in 1946 in the TV series Kaleidoscope then he made his film debut in 1948 in the romance Corridor of Mirrors.
After ten years of supporting roles he appeared as the Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing in 1957. He gained fame as Dracula in the 1958 movie Horror of Dracula, playing the Count opposite Sir Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. In 1959 he starred in Hammer’s production of The Mummy then he reprised his role as Dracula in Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1966.
In 1974 he played Scaramanga in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun opposite Roger Moore. In 1977 he moved to the US with the hope of breaking out of the horror genre. His first American movie was that year in Airport ’77. He worked with Tim Burton in Sleepy Hollow and Alice in Wonderland as well as starring in several movies throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Despite his advancing age, in the last 15 years his career hit its pinnacle. In 2001 he took on the role of Saruman in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and reprised the role for the second and third films in the trilogy the follow two years. He also played the character again in first and third movies in The Hobbit trilogy. He became part of the Star Wars mythos as Count Dooku in Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
In addition to acting, he pursued a music career late in life. He released “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross” his first metal album in 2010. In 2013 his single “Jingle Hell” a metal Christmas song gained the 22nd spot in the Billboard Hot 100, making him the oldest living artist to enter the charts.
He had recently signed on to the movie The 11th, a drama about the hours leading up to the attack on the Twin Towers. Between film and TV appearances he had almost 300 credits to his name. He was knighted as Sir Christopher Lee in 2009 and received a Bafta fellowship in 2011. During this time he said that he never planned to retire because he didn’t enjoy being idle. Lee once said, “As dear Boris [Karloff] used to say, when I die I want to die with my boots on.”