British actor Christopher Lee was born in 1922 in London, England, where he and his older sister Xandra were raised by Estelle Marie and Geoffrey Trollope, a professional soldier, until their divorce in 1926. Later, while Lee was still a child, his mother married (and later divorced) Harcourt George St.-Croix (nicknamed Ingle), who was a banker. After attending Wellington College from age 14 to 17, Lee worked as an office clerk in a couple of London shipping companies until 1941 when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Following his release from military service, Lee joined the Rank Organisation in 1947, training as an actor in their "Charm School" and playing a number of bit parts in such films as Corridor of Mirrors (1948). He made a brief appearance in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), in which his future partner-in-horror Peter Cushing also appeared. Both actors also appeared later in Moulin Rouge (1952) but did not meet until their horror films together.
Lee had numerous parts in film and television throughout the 1950s but didn't achieve stardom until his association with Hammer Film Productions, which started with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), all co-starring Peter Cushing. Lee continued his role as "Dracula" in a number of Hammer sequels throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. During this time, he made numerous appearances as Fu Manchu, most notably in the first of the series The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), and also appeared in a number of films in Europe. With his own production company, Charlemagne Productions, Ltd., Lee made Nothing But the Night (1973) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). By the mid-1970s, Lee was tiring of his horror image and tried to widen his appeal by participating in several mainstream films, such as The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974), and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
The success of these films prompted him in the late 1970s to move to Hollywood, where he remained a busy actor but made mostly unremarkable film and television appearances, and eventually moved back to England. Lee's career was revitalized in the early 2000s by his appearances in two blockbuster film franchises: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (as Saruman the White) and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) (as Count Dooku). In 2001, he was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the film and television industries. He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his accomplishments in film, television and charity.
Sir Christopher Lee is perhaps the only actor of his generation to have starred in so many films. Although most notable for personifying bloodsucking vampire, Dracula, on screen, he has portrayed other varied characters on screen, most of which were villains, whether it be Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), or Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), or as the title monster in the Hammer Horror film, The Mummy (1959).
Born in England on May 27, 1922, Lee attended Wellington College for three years, and then worked as a office clerk in a couple of London shipping companies. He subsequently enlisted in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and, on finishing his army services, sought to become an actor. He struggled initially in his new career because he was discriminated as being taller than the leading male actors of his time and being too foreign-looking. However, it was when playing the monster in the Hammer film, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) that proved to be a blessing in disguise, since the movie did successfully, leading to him being signed on for future roles in Hammer Film Productions.
Lee's association with Hammer Film Productions brought him into contact with Peter Cushing and they became good friends. Lee and Cushing often than not played contrasting roles in Hammer films, where Cushing was the protagonist and Lee the villain, whether it be Van Helsing and Dracula respectively in Horror of Dracula (1958), or John Banning and Kharis the Mummy respectively in The Mummy (1959). Lee went on to play Count Dracula in a number of Hammer sequels up until the early part of the 1970s, when he finally retired from Hammer Film Productions.
This, of course, didn't mean that he was through with the film business. He continued to play roles, mostly as villains, in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), opposite Roger Moore, The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974). The triumph of these movies prompted him to Hollywood, though he didn't fare well in the film business, culminating in his returning back to England. However, the beginning of the new millennium has relaunched his career to some degree, during which he has played Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and as Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lee played Count Dooku again in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) and as Johnny Depp's character's father in the Tim Burton film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).
|Gitte Lee||(17 March 1961 - present) 1 child|
Deeply melodic, basso voice
Frequently plays imposing, menacing villains
Roles in Hammer Horror films
More often than not sports a beard. Especially in recent years
Towering height and slender frame
Classically trained singer.
One of the few actors who has portrayed three different Sherlock Holmes characters: Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes and Sir Henry Baskerville.
A distant cousin and frequent golfing partner of Bond creator Ian Fleming, Lee was the author's personal pick for the role of Dr. No (1962) in the first 007 film. The part, of course, went to actor Joseph Wiseman, who was brilliant. However, fans of the literary Bond might want to check out Lee's portrayal of Chinese master criminal Fu Manchu, for an idea of how Ian Fleming himself envisioned Dr. No.
Uncle of Harriet Walter.
Was one of the judges for the 1995 Miss World beauty pageant.
The blooddripping fangs worn by Lee in many of his vampire films were created by Irish dental technician Sean Mulhall.
Is listed as the Center of the Hollywood Universe by the Oracle of Kevin Bacon website at the University of Virginia, because he can be linked to any one in Hollywood on average in 2.59 steps. That is less than either Charlton Heston or Kevin Bacon himself.
In a radio interview in South Africa, Lee claimed that he held the record for number of film roles by an actor. 
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.
Appears on the album cover "Band on the Run", performed by Paul McCartney's band 'Wings'.
Served in the British Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve from 1941 to 1946. During that time, he was an active member of the Special Forces.
The white coffin used in one of his Dracula films was later used in Bananarama's music video "Venus".
He is of noble Italian ancestry on his mother's side (Carandini).
From an acting dynasty, his great-grandparents founded the first Australian opera company.
He made his stage debut in school as the demonic lead in "Rumpelstiltskin", a sign of things to come.
A stunt double performed the stunts and lightsaber fights in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002). Lee's face was imposed on the double's body. Lee mentioned that in the last 40 years, he has done more swordfights than any other actor, but "not anymore".
Speaks very good French, good enough to understand questions and give long replies in a press conference.
Is an honorary member of three stuntmen's unions.
His stepfather (his mother's second husband) was the maternal uncle of writer Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame). Lee and Fleming are therefore stepcousins.
Has three roles in common with Boris Karloff: They have both played Fu Manchu, The Mummy and Frankenstein's Monster.
Played King Haggard in both the animated and live-action versions of The Last Unicorn (1982).
Since his feature film debut in Corridor of Mirrors (1948), he has had at least one film role every year except for 1995 and 2006.
At 6 feet 5 inches, he is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Tallest Leading Actor".
He struggled to get work early in his career as a supporting actor because almost all the male stars were shorter than he.
Was upset about the deletion of his death scene in the theatrical version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). However, the scene was put back into the Extended Edition which is seen as the definitive version.
One of the most prolific actors of all time, he has acted in nearly 230 films, although he later admitted that his film work was not always chosen on quality but often on whether they could support his family. His peak years of productivity were 1955 and 1970, as Lee starred in nine films in both years.
As Darth Tyranus, he plays the first Sith apprentice to act in both body and voice.
Although he has been in well over 200 films, he has very rarely played a hero, having been a villain in perhaps about 85% of his films (even his bit parts lean towards the unsympathetic).
Was made "Officier des arts et lettres" by French culture minister J.J. Aillagon on December 11, 2002.
One of his favorite bands is the Italian symphonic power metal band Rhapsody, and he has also appeared on one of their album (listen to the speech in the intro on the song "Unholy Warcry" on the album "The Dark Secret"). Lee also appears on the Rhapsody single "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream", where he does a duet with Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Leoni in English, German, Italian and French versions of the song.
On July 21, 2004, he was given the honorary citizenship of the Italian city of Casina (Province of Reggio Emilia) where Sarzano, the castle of his ancestors is situated. He gave his speech of thanks in Italian.
Was the Center of the Hollywood Universe, according to data at the Movie Oracle, http://www.cs.virginia.edu/oracle/center.html, but is now second to Rod Steiger.
Two of his roles have been as leaders of a separatist movement. The first was Jinnah (1998), about Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan. The second was in the "Star Wars" series as Count Dooku, the former mentor of Qui-Gon Jinn.
In a bonding of two generations of Frankenstein's monsters, Lee and his wife were good friends with Boris Karloff and his wife. This friendship was not as a result of them working together (they made two films together, Corridors of Blood (1958) and Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)) but by the coincidence that they lived next door to each other in England.
During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force and in British Intelligence.
In 1972, he founded Charlemagne Productions Ltd.
He studied at Summerfield Preparatory School and attended Wellington College.
His daughter, Christina Erika Lee, was born with her legs severely deformed. They were bent at such a severe angle that they were almost backwards. She spent her first two years in splints. She eventually learned how to walk after the age of three and no longer needed splints.
According to his official website: He speaks French, Italian, Spanish and German and can "get along" in Swedish, Russian and Greek.
When he arrived in the recording studio to do the voiceover for King Haggard in the original animated version of The Last Unicorn (1982), he came armed with his own copy of the book with certain excerpts marked pertaining to parts of the book that he felt should not have been omitted.
Like his Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, he has appeared in films with three generations of Astins.
Wanted to attend the Heavy Metal Festival Earthshaker Fest in 2005 to support his favorite bands, the Italian band Rhapsody and the American band Manowar, but had to cancel at the last moment because of an important filming appointment. He recorded a message to the fans in advance, which was shown right before Rhapsody appeared on-stage.
According to his friend Norman Lloyd, he has a somewhat eccentric hobby: he is fascinated by public executioners and knows the names of every official executioner England has had since the middle of the 15th century.
In his role as the title character, The Mummy (1959), in which he co-starred with Peter Cushing, Lee got severely injured in the course of the filming. All that smashing through real glass windows and doors had dislocated his shoulder and pulled his neck muscles, especially when he had to carry an actress with arms fully extended across a swamp, walking as much as 87 yards, which damaged his shoulders considerably.
In Horror of Dracula (1958), Lee in the title role had to drop a woman into a grave, but when he carried her, she was unexpectedly heavy and in trying to drop her into the grave, Lee also fell in with her.
Has starred in three different films/television series in which he had either known or met the (late) author of the original work: "Gormenghast" (2000) (Mervyn Peake), The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) (Ian Fleming, his cousin).
Shot all his scenes for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) in one day.
He is the tallest of the many actors who have played Count Dracula.
He was one of the few people to volunteer to fight on the Finnish side in the Russo-Finnish winter war in 1939-1940, though he and his fellow British volunteers were in Finland only for about two weeks and were kept well away from direct combat.
Although he and Peter Cushing were often mortal enemies on-screen, off-screen they were inseparable friends.
His films have made more money than any other actor's in history. As of May 2006, five of his films ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the two "Star Wars" films in which he played Count Dooku) had total grosses in excess of $4.4 billion. Even without considering Lee's other appearances dating back to 1948, his totals considerably surpass the figures of #3 billion and #3.8 billion claimed by Harrison Ford and Samuel L. Jackson, respectively.
As a veritable J.R.R. Tolkien expert and the only member of the cast who had met Tolkien himself, he often visited the Production department on the sets of the various "Lord of the Rings" movies to give advice and tips on the various attributes of the films.
Released the music album "Christopher Lee: Revelation" in the United Kingdom in October 2006. It includes songs like "The Toreador March", "O Sole Mio", "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" and "My Way".
Has worked with three different Gollums. The first Gollum, Brother Theodore, provided a voice in The Last Unicorn (1982). The second, Peter Woodthorpe, appeared with him in "The Odyssey" (1997). The last, Andy Serkis, appeared with him in the Lord of the Rings films.
Has played a staggering amount of Victorian characters. He played Count Dracula ten times, Dr. Fu Manchu five times, Sherlock Holmes three times, Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock's brother) once and Sir Henry Baskerville (a friend of Holmes) once. He also appeared in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and I, Monster (1971), adaptations of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", among others.
He is possibly the only actor in cinematic history to have achieved a unique trifecta. He has played a Star Wars villain (Count Dooku), a James Bond villain (Francisco Scaramanga), and a classic horror movie monster (Dracula, the Mummy and Frankenstein's Monster).
He was cast as a ballad soloist called The Gentleman Ghost in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, but his role was cut when the ballad numbers were omitted. However, he never filmed the scenes and was present for the recording session.
In 2008, he received a lifetime achievement award at Pula Film Festival (Croatia).
In various interviews over the years has referred to all three actors to play "James Bond" that he has worked with - Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig - as the best and most close to Ian Fleming's intentions. However, he has also criticized Fleming's weak characters when discussing his own Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and described the screen adaptation as considerably better written.
He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama and charity. The ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace on 30 October 2009, and was carried out by HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.
He was awarded Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John in 1997.
At age 77, he confirmed that he has lost an inch of height and is now 6' 4".
Was offered the role of King Balor in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), but had to turn it down due to other commitments.
Once declared himself an unconditional fan of Gene Hackman.
He learned how to speak German by listening to Richard Wagner records.
Dubbed "King Haggard" in the German version of The Last Unicorn (1982) for no fee, out of love for the film.
Has said that his favorite director is Tim Burton, whom he frequently collaborated with on several of Burton's films.
Was a very good friend of Josip Broz Tito, a partisan leader and a president of a former country of Yugoslavia.
Lee's friend, Jean Paul Getty, lent him and wife Gitte his Sutton Place home for their honeymoon in 1961.
Lee's hobby is gardening.
Read the Lord of the Rings trilogy once a year for decades, long before the film series ever got started.
Wore an eyepatch to play the part of Rochefort in The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974) and The Return of the Musketeers (1989), one of few films, if not the only film, to be based on Twenty Years After. His interpretation of the character was so popular that many subsequent adaptations of the story; such as Disney's The Three Musketeers (1993) and The Three Musketeers (2011), have continued to portray Rochefort as wearing an eyepatch, despite the fact that Alexandre Dumas père never described the character as wearing one.
Early in his career, Lee dubbed foreign films into English and other languages including Jacques Tat's "Mr. Hulot's Holiday". Sometimes he dubbed all the voices including women's parts. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., recalled that Lee could do any kind of accent: "foreign, domestic, North, South, Middle, young, old, everything. He's a great character actor".
Around 1988, Lee agreed to play a vampire once more in an unproduced Dutch/Belgian comedy that was to be called "Blooper". The script, written by 'Frank van Laecke', was commissioned because of the physical resemblance between Lee and Dutch opera singer Marco Bakker, as noted by Bakker's wife, actress Willeke van Ammelrooy. Lee, a great lover of opera, got along well with both of them. The story concerned an opera singer called Billy Blooper (Bakker) who learns his father (Lee) is a vampire who's teeth had gone rotten after eating too many sweets. Now whenever he bites anyone, instead of turning into a vampire, they became half-human, half-chicken.
His mother was a contessa of the Italian Cardini family related through marriage across the centuries to the Borgias.
He got started in films when his cousin Count Niccolo Caradini, Italy's first post war ambassador to Britain introduced him to Filipo Del Guidice of Two Cities Film.
His godfather was Prince Alexanderof Battenberg, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who later adopted the title of Lord Carisbrooke.
After preparatory school, he passed the entrance exam for Eton but his parents could not afford the fees. He went to Wellington, but had to be taken out when their financial situation worsened. He took a job as an office boy in a shipping company in the City at £1 a week.
I stopped appearing as Dracula in 1972 because in my opinion the presentation of the character had deteriorated to such an extent, particularly bringing him into the contemporary day and age, that it really no longer had any meaning.
There are many vampires in the world today - you only have to think of the film business.
In Britain, any degree of success is met with envy and resentment.
(On his friendship with Peter Cushing) "I don't want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again".
[on doing Military Intelligence in World War II] When people say to me, you know, were you in this? Were you in that? Did you work in this? Did you work in that? I always used to say 'Can you keep a secret?' And they would say 'Yes, yes' and I would say "So can I."
Some of the films I've been in I regret making. I got conned into making these pictures in almost every case by people who lied to me. Some years ago I got a call from my producers saying that they were sending me a script and that five very distinguished American actors were also going to be in the film. Actors like José Ferrer, Dean Jagger and John Carradine. So I thought, "Well, that's alright by me". But it turned out it was a complete lie. Appropriately, the film was called End of the World (1977).
I've seen many men die right in front of me - so many in fact that I've become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise we would never have won.
When you're involved in a war it's the old saying 'if your name's written on the bullet, there's nothing you can do about it'. So you just banished it from your mind. Of course I was scared on some occasions and anyone who says they aren't scared during an operation probably isn't telling the truth. I know about six people who had no fear. Literally none. Whether that was due to a lack of imagination or because they'd conquered it, I don't know. In fact one was Iain Duncan Smith's father, who was one of my closest friends. But during a war, people are taught to kill and they have the blessings of the authorities to do so, so if it's your life or somebody else's, you want to be quite sure it's not yours.
"One should try anything he can in his career, except folkdance and incest" - on the Rhapsody DVD documentary special edition of "The dark secret".
[Criticizing Hollywood's obsession with youth]: "The problem today, and I think it's a very dangerous one for the people concerned, is that there are quite large numbers of very young men and women from 18 to 30, and they are playing very large parts in huge films and they simply, through no fault of their own, don't have the background and the experience and the knowledge to pull if off. And it's dangerous for them because if they are in one failure after another, sooner or later people are going to say, 'Well, he may have a pretty face but he's not bringing the public in.' So many of these good-looking - sometimes even pretty - boys and girls are getting these good roles and it's not fair on them. At some point it's going to catch up."
In my opinion--and I think I know as much if not more about Bond than anyone, particularly about the characters on whom [Ian Fleming] told me Bond was based--Pierce Brosnan was by far the best and closest to the character.
I've always acknowledged my debt to Hammer. I've always said I'm very grateful to them. They gave me this great opportunity, made me a well-known face all over the world for which I am profoundly grateful.
(on the technology used to film Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)): The advances have been phenomenal. There is a monitor on the camera there that is static, a monitor on the crane, and all these monitors scattered all over the place. What he's seeing is what you will see when you see the movie.
I was once asked what I thought was the most disquieting thing you could see on the screen and I said, "An open door."
Acting is like a snowstorm or perhaps a large empty vacuum. I'm not deluded by the fact that I'm getting all these offers for work, I'm very happy about it, but I know also that there is the other side and who knows, next year, they may not offer me anything. You never know.
I think acting is a mixture of instinct, imagination and inventiveness. All you can learn as an actor is basic technique.
[on how he was cast as the monster in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)] I was asked to play the creature chiefly because of my size and height which had effectively kept me out of many pictures I might have appeared in during the preceding ten years. Most British stars flatly refused to have me anywhere near them in a film, because I was easily the tallest man around.
[on Peter Cushing] He really was the most gentle and generous of men. I have often said he died because he was too good for this world.
Anthony Hopkins used to say, "I don't play villains, I play people," and it's a quote I use all the time. There's not much attractive about Hannibal Lecter though, although he's obviously charming and there's a side to him that's like Scaramanga (a Bond villain played by Lee), although far, far worse. He was quite stomach-churning.
I vote Conservative, and I think Michael Howard is the ideal person to lead the party. When the last election was won by Labour, I said to my wife, 'The man we need is Michael Howard', and I've said it ever since. He is an honourable man and his power lies in the fact that he is a splendid debater. Ann Widdecombe's comment is meaningless, as far as I'm concerned. (2003)
I will play no more monsters. Dracula is different; he is such an exciting person.
A real actor has to have an awful lot of imagination, and I do have a great deal.
You can never be a proper actor without good instincts.
I would rather have been an opera singer than anything else.
I prefer to watch the old movies. The film stars of today, in my opinion, don't compare with their predecessors. The best are very good, but the last giant of cinema, I think, was Bette Davis. One actor I admire, who could become a giant, is Johnny Depp. He has elements that other actors don't possess.
I think that - apart from the fields of science and medicine - we live in an age of decline. Look at the world. There is decline in morals, ideals, manners, respect, truthfulness: just about everything, in fact.
|Horror of Dracula (1958)||$1,360|
(May 2009) Belgravia, London, England
(June 2009) Covent Garden, London, England
(1983) London, UK: Wrote commentary and footnotes on filmography book, "The Films of Christopher Lee".
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