Movie careers come and go. Some burn brightly, if only for a short time, while others disappear without a trace. Some enjoy longevity but without ever really setting the world alight. Then there are those that span generations, define an era, commanding the respect of the great and the good. Christopher Lee‘s was all of this and more.
The screen legend passed away in London last Sunday, at the age of 93, following breathing difficulties and heart failure.
With his tall, lithe frame and spellbinding looks, he was always destined to be cast as one of the bad guys – and how! From the 1950s he became synonomous with Hammer Horror and its most macabre creations. Frankenstein and The Mummy were both memorable, but it is the infinitely more complex character of Dracula that Lee will go down in history for. He played the Count to great effect on numerous occasions, so much so that to many he is the Prince of Darkness.
Plenty more roles followed; in particular the Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. In latter decades he struck up a friendship with both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and was cast in Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. He also found fame in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star Wars.
Off-screen, he was the total opposite to many of his alter egos, as the countless, heartfelt tributes have shown. Broadcaster and film buff Jonathan Ross said: “So sad to hear that Sir Christopher Lee has died. A great actor, a great star, a surprisingly good singer and a lovely, lovely man.” Roger Moore, a decades-long friend and colleague, said: “It’s terribly sad when you lose an old friend, and Christopher Lee was one of my oldest. We first met in 1948.”
Which gives you an idea of just how long Sir Chris was in the business for. Yes, his time on this earth was undoubtedly a life in film, which is why, in 2009, he was knighted for services to drama (as well as charity, it should be said). Speaking about his career back in 2001, the man himself summed it up by saying: “I’ve appeared in so many films that were ahead of their time – some of them were very good. Some weren’t.”
Then again, even legends luck out sometimes.