Sir Christopher Lee, longtime star of stage and screen, has passed away at the age of 93. He leaves behind a wife, a daughter, and an extraordinary legacy encompassing over 60 years of theater, film, television, animation and, among others, video games.
A World War II veteran, Lee was born Christopher Frank Carandini in London, England in 1922, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Lee and his wife, Contessa Estelle Marie. Lee would see action in as a volunteer in the Finnish army as well as the British Home Guard and Royal Air Force, fighting in Britain’s North African Campaign and the Allied invasion of Italy against the Axis forces.
Lee’s career would begin in 1948 in the experimental film Corridor of Mirrors in a minor role and later as Count Dracula in the 50s Hammer Horror film series in Britain, a role that would define his at times reluctant career in the horror genre. He would also star as Frankenstein’s monster and the 1972 Spanish/British film Horror Express, opposite his close friend, Peter Cushing, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope‘s Grand Moff Tarkin.
Lee would famously go on to star in the Star Wars series himself as the Sith Lord Count Dooku in 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and its sequel of Revenge of the Sith. The role of Dooku would typically be filled in by actor Corey Burton in related cartoons and video games with the exception of Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ theatrical debut. If anything, Lee was not above sharing his talent with movies that didn’t necessarily deserve it.
His talent for onscreen villainy would lead Lee to assume his most iconic role to 21st century filmgoers as Saruman The White in all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, later appearing in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and again in 2013’s The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. His voice would be used in the following Lego Lord of the Rings games as well as Lego The Hobbit.
Villains continued to characterize the majority of Lee’s career. He played a James Bond villain, Scaramanga in the The Man with The Golden Gun, which he would reprise for the video game, Golden Eye: Rogue Agent. He would also play Count Rocheford in The Three Musketeers and its sequels. In a change of pace, he would take up the heroic mantle of one of literature’s most famed detectives, Sherlock Holmes, in 1958’s The Hound of Hell.
In addition to his pop culture fame, Lee boasted no shortage of accolades, including a BAFTA fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts – the academy’s highest honor. He was knighted Sir Christopher Lee by England’s Prince Charles two years prior for contribution to the arts. He considered his best performance his role as the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in the biopic Jinnah and his best film as 1973’s The Wicker Man.
His commanding voice undoubtedly lent him similar levity onscreen as much as off of it. Lee would go on to voice Ansem the Wise in Kingdom Hearts I and II as well as DiZ in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Lucan D’Lere in EverQuest II. He also supplied voices for Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland in addition to his live-action role in Burton’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as the elder Wonka. He most recently voiced the narrator in this year’s Deus Ex Machina 2.
Among his already stunningly large list of work, Lee also paid tribute one of his lesser known passions: heavy metal. The late 80s and early 90s would see Lee perform in a variety of operas and musical pieces, among them his album Charlemagne: By The Sword and the Cross and its follow-up, Charlemagne: Omens of Death.
A descendant of the aristocratic Carandini family line, Lee was distantly related to a number of historical figures, including American Confederate general Robert E. Lee and English astronomer John Lee. He was also, coincidentally, the step-cousin to James Bond author Ian Fleming. Coincidentally, he frequently cited Pierce Brosnan as his favorite Bond. He leaves behind his wife of 54 years, Birgit Krøncke Lee, and their daughter, Christina Erika Carandini Lee.
“Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff didn’t like the word ‘horror'”, Lee once said. “They, like I, went for the French description: ‘the theatre of the fantastique.'” Indeed, Lee himself lent his charisma to a lifetime of characters who helped make the fantastic into something more powerful, more fearful, and maybe just a little more human.
We bid you adieu, Sir Christopher Lee.
Correction: Richard Epcar’s Terra-Xenanort was originally pictured in this article in place of Christopher Lee’s Ansem The Wise. I apologize for the error.