Storied British actor Christopher Lee, who made a career out of playing the most evil of villains, including Saruman the White Wizard in “Lord of the Rings,” has died. He was93.
Younger fans will remember him as the fierce and demented wizard who battled Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) in “LOTR” or as Count Dooku in “Star Wars.”
Lee, however, had a long history of playing bad guys and monsters before those two blockbuster franchises.
PM: Saddened to hear of Sir Christopher Lee’s death, a titan of Golden Age of Cinema & distinguished WW2 veteran who’ll be greatly missed
— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) June 11, 2015
The tributes are pouring in, including one from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who tweeted: “Saddened to hear of Sir Christopher Lee’s death, a titan of Golden Age of Cinema & distinguished WW2 veteran who’ll be greatly missed.”
The London-born Lee, who died this past Saturday, hit it big from the 1950s through the ’70s playing Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy for Hammer Films.
He played the fiendish criminal genius Fu Manchu in five films, the villain Scaramanga in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974) and, in a rare departure from cinematic wickedness, gave life to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in a couple of films.
The great, always criminally underrated Sir Christopher Lee has left us. A Titan of Cinema and a huge part of my youth. Farewell.
— Mark Gatiss (@Markgatiss) June 11, 2015
He won new generations of fans with “Star Wars” and “LOTR.”
He played the evil Count Dooku, fighting Jedi knights in “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” (2005). Andthe power-hungry wizard Saruman in director Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012) and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (2014).
As part of his late-career flourish, he also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” (2011) and Tim Burton’s black comedy “Dark Shadows” (2012) with Johnny Depp.
He also appeared in cult British TV series, “The League of Gentlemen.” Its creator, Mark Gatiss, tweeted that Lee was always “criminally underrated.”
Every actor has to make terrible films from time to time. The trick is never to be terrible in them.–Christopher Lee pic.twitter.com/1RT6oZJdMr
— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) June 11, 2015
He was most closely associated with the role of Dracula, dispensing with the nobility Lugosi had given the role and adopting a more beastly, lustful bearing as he dispensed with various buxom victims.
He played the blood-sucking count in movies including “Dracula” (1958), “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” (1966), “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” (1968), “Count Dracula” (1970), “Taste the Blood of Dracula” (1970), “Scars of Dracula” (1970), “Dracula A.D. 1972” (1972), “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” (1973) and “Dracula and Son” (1976).
Lee brought to his monsters a sense of pitifulness that he called “the loneliness of evil.” Despite being a master of the horror genre, Lee did not even like the word.
“It implies something nauseating, revolting, disgusting – which one sees too often these days. I prefer the word ‘fantasy,'” he told the New York Times in 2002.
Reuters contributed reporting to this story.
Christopher Lee, the last of the great Hammer horror stars, has passed away. pic.twitter.com/tEU0SoP2bO
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) June 11, 2015