January 2, 2017

Actors

Christopher Lee (1922-) b. London, England.

Christopher Lee

Born in London in 1922, Christopher Lee went to work in business in the City of London after leaving school. On leaving the Royal Air Force at the end of World War II, he decided to become an actor, though he admits that he finds it difficult to remember why he took the decision to join the profession that was later to take him to the heights of international success. One of the great turning points in his career, however, undoubtedly came in 1956 when Hammer asked him to play the creature in their first remake of the great horror movies of the ‘thirties, The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Christopher Lee‘s part in Frankenstein brought him into contact with another actor, Peter Cushing, with whom he was to establish an acting partnership which would prove equally successful in Dracula (1957). Lee was reluctant to go on playing Dracula, and away from Hammer his other notable roles have included Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and Lord Summerisle in the occult thriller The Wicker Man (1973).

Lee sought more diverse work during the 70s and appeared in the contemporary tv thriller Diagnosis: Murder (1975), as a the sinister priest in Hammers production nightmare adaptation of To the Devil a Daughter (1976), as a Polish scientist in the action adventure adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s Bear Island (1979), and even turned his hand to wry comedy as a German U-Boat commander in Steven Spielberg’s manic 1941 (1979). He was by now largely playing villainous self-caricatures, as his did in Peter Walker’s miss-firing horror spoof, House of the Long Shadows (1983). Lee’s career probably hit an all time low when he appeared in the embarrassing Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994).

Salvation would come from a new generation of directors who had grown up with Lee’s horror films and were eager to cast him in their projects, and the actor found himself back in vogue. Tim Burton set the ball rolling by casting Lee in a small role opposite Johnny Depp in the Hammer-influenced Sleepy Hollow (1999), and Burton would again use the ageing actor in , who had grown up worshipping Hammer films and Lee in particular would cast Lee as the fierce Wonka Snr in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and in small role in The Corpse Bride (2005) and he was to have sung  "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" in Sweeney Todd (2007), but this was cut from the theatrical release. In 2001, he was recognised the Queen for his work in film and television when awarded a CBE.

Lee was also offered a major supporting role in two of the biggest movie franchises in film history – the evil Sith Lord Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). He was also cast as the war-mongering wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). Lee showed no signs of slowing down and on the insistence of the producers was cast in a cameo role in the adaptation of Philip Pullman‘s The Golden Compass (2007).



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