Characters and Actors: R. I. P. Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

Five days ago on June 7, 2015 at 8:30 A.M., renowned movie actor Christopher Lee passed away at the ripe old age of 93 years from heart failure. Many of us know him as the villain from the epics Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Star Wars, and Dracula, and played in 206 films in his acting career including a couple Sherlock Holmes films, The Three Musketeers, Spielburg’s 1941, 1979’s Captain America II, 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and Hugo as well as six of Tim Burton’s films. He set the record for the most films with a swordfight by an actor. He is also the oldest video game voice actor and was a heavy metal vocalist (who would have thought?).

Christopher Lee was born in London in 1922. He fought in the second World War as a pilot and later worked at Beecham’s. He began acting in 1946 in his first movie, Corridor of Mirrors, which came out in 1948. In 1977 he moved from England to America, because he was concerned of his being cast only in horror films. His first American film was Airport ’77.

In the 2000s, Lee was cast as Saruman in Lord of the Rings. In the commentary, he says that playing Gandalf was one of his dreams, but said himself that he was too old and in decreasing physical health to play the part. He met J. R. R. Tolkien, making him the only person involved in LotR to have done so, and made a habit of reading the series once a year ever since. (Which is a fact that just confirms his awesomeness.) Later in Star Wars Episodes II and III, he played as Count Dooku and did most of the swordplay himself. In Alice in Wonderland, he played the voice of the Jabberwocky, alongside renowned actors Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway. Later he came back as Saruman in the Hobbit trilogy.

In 2013, Lee was saddened to hear that Johnny Depp might be retiring from acting. In an interview, he said: “There are frustrations – people who lie to you, people who don’t know what they are doing, films that don’t turn out the way you had wanted them to – so, yes, I do understand [why Depp would consider retiring]. I always ask myself ‘well, what else could I do?’. Making films has never just been a job to me, it is my life. I have some interests outside of acting – I sing and I’ve written books, for instance – but acting is what keeps me going, it’s what I do, it gives life purpose… I’m realistic about the amount of work I can get at my age, but I take what I can, even voice-overs and narration.”

“He was a gracious, intelligent man, who could speak multiple languages and clearly had a razor–sharp mind. He was the ultimate name dropper – he would rattle off name after name, each one a bigger Hollywood legend than the next. He did it not in a boastful or vulgar way, but with reverence and respect for everyone he’d worked with. He was a proper gentleman, and he’ll be very missed.” – Kevin Lynch

Christopher Lee was a legend who created legends. He died, but his legends will stay with us.

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