With the death of Sir Christopher Lee, cinema has lost not just one, but several icons.
I refer, of course, to the numerous iconic characters he portrayed on screen, from Dracula to Frankenstein’s Creature, from Sherlock Holmes to Fu Manchu, and (more recently) from Saruman to the unfortunately-named Count Dooku. In his nearly 300 acting credits, Christopher Lee always commanded the screen with his imposing frame, and could make even the most familiar and overplayed fictional characters his own. Even when the movies were bad (which was often, to be honest about it), he was always the best thing in them.
I’m not sure I can remember the first Christopher Lee movie I saw. He just always seemed to be there, a presence I always knew. It wouldn’t have been any of his Hammer horror pictures; I didn’t see any of those until much later. As I think back, the first role I recall clearly identifying as Christopher Lee’s was Scaramanga in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun‘. The movie is one of the lesser Roger Moore entries in the James Bond franchise (which is saying something), but of course Lee made a splendidly elegant and well-spoken Bond villain.
If you believe the rumors, Peter Jackson supposedly had to take out a special insurance policy when he cast Lee in the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy. Due to the actor’s advanced age and reported ill health, the studio worried that he wouldn’t be able to complete even the first movie, much less three. That was in 2001. Not only did he finish shooting all those, he went on to appear in two of the ‘Star Wars’ prequels, two of the ‘Hobbit’ pictures, and a bunch of other stuff as well. A man of very diverse and strange tastes, he even recorded a couple albums of heavy metal music in recent years. It sure seemed like Lee would be immortal.
Christopher Lee was 93-years-old when he passed away due to respiratory problems and heart failure. Although he died this last Sunday, June 7th, news of the event only started circulating yesterday.
I think I ought to watch ‘The Wicker Man‘ this weekend.