Christopher Lee: A Retrospective

‘Legend’. ‘Icon’. ‘Luminary’. All terms thrown around so casually in today’s world, and seldom do they ever ring true. There are some people however that these special words still so accurately describe. Sir Christopher Lee is one of these people.

It is with a heavy heart, that we report that Sir Christopher Lee has passed away, at the age of 93.

We could talk about Lee’s entire life, which has been quite unique and fulfilling, but for this retrospective, we’ll look at the life he spent in front of the camera.

For the horror enthusiasts amongst us, it’s difficult to hear the name Christopher Lee and not immediately envision a sharply dressed Dracula, expressing a menacing yet charming smile, in one of his various outings for the Hammer Horror franchise. To put it bluntly, Christopher Lee IS Hammer Horror.

Lee’s first film for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) in which he played Frankenstein’s Monster, alongside fellow Hammer legend Peter Cushing, playing Baron Victor Von Frankenstein. This would be the first of twenty films that Lee and Cushing would star in together, and from this a long lasting friendship was born. Lee would reprise his role of Dracula for decades to come, including Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), and Scars of Dracula (1970).

Lee would go on to work with Hammer until To the Devil a Daughter (1976), which would be their last outing together.

Although Lee is seminally associated with Hammer, he also worked on several other projects still within the Horror genre. Between 1965 and 1969, he starred in several Fu Manchu films, as the titled oriental antagonist. He also played the roles of both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1971′s iconic I, Monster.

1973 was perhaps one of the most significant years for Lee in terms of his cinematic career, with the release of the critically acclaimed The Wicker Man. Known to be Lee’s favourite role, he gave his services for free, so passionate was he to see this project come to fruition. The result of which is a cult classic, that has more than stood the test of time.

Another of Lee’s iconic roles came in the form of the charismatic assassin Francicso Scaramanga, in 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. Lee made the role his own, taking what he called a West Indian thug from the novel and turning him into a suave, composed killer, or “the dark side of Bond”. This role often tops charts of not only the greatest Bond villains, but general greatest movie villains of all time polls too.

Although a prominent figure in the world of cinema for decades, it was the 2000′s where Lee truly because a global household name. In 2001 he fulfilled a lifelong dream to star in the movie adaptations of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. A lifelong fan and scholar of Tolkien’s work, he famously read the novel at least once a year, and could quote the inscription of the ring in flawless black speech. Although initially he had desired to play Gandalf, his physical limitations meant that he was better suited to the more sedate role of Saruman. Without a doubt though, he made this role his own and to many, this was truly his magnum opus. Lee would reprise this role in the highly successful Hobbit franchise to equal acclaim.

As if pleasing one fandom wasn’t enough, Lee put is own unique mark on the Star Wars world, playing the Sith Lord Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). Although the quality of the prequel Star Wars trilogy will forever be the subject of debate, there’s no doubt that they were all the better for having Lee involved. Such was his impact, you cannot attend any convention these day without seeing half a dozen or more Count Dookus wandering around.

Lee was a favourite actor of cult director Tim Burton, and appeared in many of this films, including Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) and the two remained close friends.

As well as his cinematic career, he also had an impressive resume of voice work, including The Last Unicorn (1982), Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters, and once again with Tim Burton on Corpse Bride, to name but a few.

Sir Christopher Lee touched the lives of countless millions, from all walks of life. His legacy and the gifts he’s left with us will live on forever. He are just a few examples of the impact he has on others:

“He was scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvellous actor. There will never be another Christopher Lee. He has a unique place in the history of cinema and in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.” – Peter Jackson

“Christopher was a great British actor of the old school. A true link to cinema’s past and a real gentleman. We will miss him.” – George Lucas

“He was the last of his kind, a true legend, who I’m fortunate to have called a friend. He will continue to inspire me and I’m sure countless others for generations to come.” - Tim Burton

“An extraordinary man and life lead, Sir Christopher Lee. You were an icon, and a towering human being with stories for days. We’ll miss you.” - Elijah Wood

Sir Christopher Lee passed away peacefully on Sunday 7th June, 2015. In terms of ‘life lived’ he re-wrote the book. Rest in peace, you wonderful man, the world is a sadder place without you, but a better place because of you.

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