I was first introduced to Sir Christopher Lee by a mirthful uncle who, upon seeing Lee was playing Blind Pew in the adaptation of Treasure Island we were watching, asked “Haw! Christopher Lee?! Is there anything he isn’t in?” Since then, I’ve come to know him as a fallen Jedi, a conniving wizard, the anti-007, a hounded Baskerville, and an especially evil Scottish laird with a penchant for pagan idol worship.
To every role in his career, even in utter clangers, Lee brought a gravitas and intensity unmatched by many of his contemporaries. To be fair, in reaching age 93 and still remaining unretired Lee outlived and outworked a great number of them. Spanning over half a century, Christopher Lee’s filmography shows the astonishing breadth of his acting ability and his unstoppability. After suffering a bit of a nadir in the 1990s, Lee found fame with a whole new generation of cinemagoers with his supporting roles in two Star Wars films and the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its Hobbit spinoffs. He even found his way into the music industry, recording vocals for a number of heavy metal albums including two of his own based on the work of Charlemagne.
Lee also had an illustrious military career, including time with the highly covert Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. One of my favourite stories about Lee comes from Peter Jackson, discussing the filming of Saruman’s death in The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King: “When I was shooting the stabbing shot with Christopher, as a director would, I was explaining to him what he should do… And he says, ‘Peter, have you ever heard the sound a man makes when he’s stabbed in the back?’ And I said, ‘Um, no.’ And he says ‘Well, I have, and I know what to do.’”
Knighted in 2009, Sir Christopher worked hard right to the end, and was slated to appear this year in a film about the days before 9/11.
Sir Christopher Lee’s death this week is a huge loss to the industry and to the public. He was one of those actors who you always thought would just be there making a surprise appearance in something or another. His legendary voice and screen presence will be greatly missed.
Sir Christopher Lee, May 27 1922 – June 7 2015
To read his obituary in The Telegraph, click here.