Sir Christopher Lee has passed away at the age of 93.
The veteran actor, best known for his recurring roles in the cult classic Hammer Horror films and as Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, passed away on 11 June after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.
With over 218 credits to his film career, a collection of heavy metal albums and more anecdotes than the average famous landmark, Lee's vast career is a treasure trove of brilliance. We've picked out some highlights, from obscure works to seminal roles. Let us know your favourite memories of Lee in the comments below.
As well as starring in Robin Hardy's 1973 classic The Wicker Man, Lee also lent his vocal talents to the film's soundtrack, singing the chilling folk song The Tinker of Rye. This was just a hint of the man's musical range.
Blessed with deep, booming tones and a natural panache for the Gothic, his most accomplished music release came last year, in the form of Metal Knight - a collection of covers recorded to celebrate his 92nd birthday. Asked why he had recorded the song I, Don Quixote, Lee gave the superb response, "as far as I am concerned, Don Quixote is the most metal fictional character that I know".
Listen to the album here.
Playing a Bond villain
Thought you looked cool strafing around Goldeneye on the N64 with a golden gun? You were a damned amateur compared to the weapon’s original owner, Francisco Scaramanga, an absolute don of villainy whose final showdown with Roger Moore’s naff spy was arguably the best part of The Man With The Golden Gun.
As debonair as he was dastardly, Lee was a perfect fit for the role and cemented himself in Bond history. Not many actors can claim to have been a Bond baddie.
Extra factoid for you: Lee was also the step-cousin of author Ian Fleming. Maybe he put a good word in.
Lord of Misrule
It would seem if you've been on a reality TV show for more than ten minutes, a book publisher somewhere will be willing to give you a crack at writing an autobiography.
Unlike many of his famed, talented peers, Christopher Lee's 2004 autobiography Lord of Misrule, is an absolute must-read for fans of film - packed as it is with fascinating anecdotes from working with some of Hollywood's biggest names. A witty, thorough and impossibly cool read.
Being the scariest thing about Lord of the Rings
Dark towers, big robes, not much sunlight, spine-tingling music – sure, playing corrupt wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films might not seemed too much of a stretch for Lee, sticking true to his horror and fantasy roots, but no one could possibly have known just how terrifying he’d be in the role.
His battle scenes opposite fellow knight of the realm Sir Ian McKellen remain some of the finest, if not wincing, of the entire series. Considering the man also starred in Star Wars, it’s testament to Lee’s riveting, wild-eyed performance that this was the best franchise he ever starred in.
Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing
"At my age, the most important thing for me is to keep active by doing things that I truly enjoy. I do not know how long I am going to be around, so every day is a celebration and I want to share it with my fans", said Lee of his 2014 alternative Christmas release, Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing.
The release of the single Jingle Hell saw him become the oldest performer in history to have charted on Billboard at 91, but this release was a more spectacular, nightmarish treasure. You can listen to it here.
His self-described greatest performance ever
There was much more to the acting prowess of Lee than simply crypt-dwelling Hammer Horror roles. In fact, if there was one character he must enjoyed sinking his
fangs teeth into more than any other, it was Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, lawyer, politician, all-round revolutionary and the subject of 1998’s Jinnah. A wonderful film. The actor not only hailed it as his best performance, he called it “the most important film” he ever made.
The recurring Dracula
It wasn't his first Hammer Horror role (that was The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957), but his chilling depiction of Bram Stoker's Dracula in Horror of Dracula/Dracula set Lee on a path that would make him a household name. He would appear as the fanged character some eight times with Hammer, cementing himself as an actor capable of pulling off remarkably chilling roles in what were otherwise stilted productions.