RIP Christopher Lee, actor: 1922-2015

Christopher LeeChristopher Lee, one of the most beloved actors to work in the horror genre, has died. He was 93.

Lee’s association with horror began when he was cast as the monster in Hammer’s 1957 film The Curse of Frankenstein; he was given this role primarily because of his imposing height – ironically enough, a quality which had previously hampered his career. He went on become one of Hammer’s most bankable talents, appearing in such films as The Mummy, Rasputin: The Mad Monk and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The part that made his name, of course, was the title character in Hammer’s 1958 version of Dracula. Lee went on to appear in most of the film’s sequels; he was outspoken in his resentment towards the role, however, in part because of how far the Hammer films departed from Bram Stoker’s novel. The actor preferred playing the heroic Duke de Richleau in The Devil Rides Out, based on the novel by his friend Dennis Wheatley, and in later years expressed interest in reprising the role for a remake of the film.

Outside Hammer, Lee played such iconic characters as Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu and the Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga. His personal favourite role was Lord Summerisle, the villain of The Wicker Man.

Although Lee moved on from horror, his association with fantasy films continued into the twenty-first century. He played the evil wizard Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and Count Dooku in two of the Star Wars prequels. He was a frequent collaborator with Tim Burton, appearing in Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dark Shadows and (via archive footage) Frankenweenie, also contributing his voice to Alice in Wonderland and The Corpse Bride.

His final film role was playing a godlike being in Angels of Notting Hill, a fantasy film which has yet to be released.