Christopher Lee was as large a man in life as he was in film, and it’s with great sadness that we receive news today of his passing at the age of 93.
He passed away on Sunday, but the family kept that knowledge to themselves until his friends and family could be informed personally. He’d been hospitalized in London and on Sunday morning succumbed to respiratory problems and heart failure.
Lee was a fascinating man who remained tight lipped about his service during World War II.
He took up acting after the war and after many background appearances, became an icon of horror cinema for his work with Hammer Films. (You can read more about his collaborations with Peter Cushing and Star Wars in this piece I wrote here.) Through the years, he worked to diversify his film roles, becoming the villain Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun,” and branching out even further.
He reinvented himself again in his 70s and 80s, joining franchises like “Lord of the Rings” as Saruman and “Star Wars” as Count Dooku, making himself well known to an all new generation of fans. He also enjoyed long years of collaboration with filmmakers like Tim Burton.
Soon, he turned to heavy metal music and won awards singing with his iconic voice.
Lee is the sort of actor who could add menace and gravitas to any project. His voice could be as smooth as it was terrifying and he could exude warmth and coldness in equal measures. He was a legend in our time and will forever be a legend, his mark on the history of cinema cannot be undersold.
Seek out a movie of his you’ve never seen before and see just how incredible and magnetic this man could truly be.
UPDATE: We have a statement from George Lucas about Christopher Lee’s passing:
“Christopher was a great British actor of the old school. A true link to cinema’s past and a real gentleman. We will miss him.”
UPDATE: We have a statement from Kathleen Kennedy about his passing now:
“Christopher brought a grace and gravitas to the many roles he’s played over a rich and expansive career. His performance as Count Dooku in Episodes II and III remains a highlight of the Star Wars saga, and we have been so privileged and honored to count him among our family. Christopher was a gentle soul and deeply adored by fans, and we will miss him dearly.”