Legendary actor Christopher Lee died Sunday in London at the age of 93. Today he is probably most famous for bringing to life Saruman but his career spans decades as his Guinness World Record of 259 movies roles attest to.
Christopher Lee was born in London on May 27, 1922. Served during World War II first as part of the Royal Air Force and then as an intelligence in their elite Special Operations Executive on missions that remain classified. He mostly worked in the African and European theatre of war helping to retake Sicily. By the time his tour of duty was over he had received commendations for bravery from four governments including his own. After the war, at the ripe old age of 25 he became an actor and started a career that would last 7 decades. The actor was James Bond creator Ian Fleming first choice for the role of Bond and personally received the permission of JRR Tolkien to play Gandalf which he fought for but was considered to old when the role became available in Peter Jackson's opus. His version of Dracula is considered definitive and often emulated today as is his version of the eye patched Rochefort.
His volume of acting is so great that there really should be a "3 Degrees of Christopher Lee" as he can connect to any actor in only 2.59 steps. He never received award accolades but then he never seem to care about prestige of a role, just that it was another chance to act. When you get a chance you should check out his filmography, I suspect you will find him in more than a few favorite films. The acting world lost a giant but the legacy of film he left behind will last for generations.
Peter Jackson summed him up best:
Christopher spoke seven languages; he was in every sense, a man of the world; well versed in art, politics, literature, history and science. He was scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvelous actor. One of my favourite things to do whenever I came to London would be to visit with Christopher and Gitte where he would regale me for hours with stories about his extraordinary life. I loved to listen to them and he loved to tell them - they were made all the more compelling because they were true - stories from his time with the SAS, through the Second World War, to the Hammer Horror years and later, his work with Tim Burton - of which he was enormously proud.
I was lucky enough to work with Chris on five films all told and it never ceased to be a thrill to see him on set. I remember him saying on my 40th Birthday (he was 80 at the time), “You’re half the man I am”. Being half the man Christopher Lee is, is more than I could ever hope for. He was a true gentleman, in an era that no longer values gentleman.