93 (passed away Jun. 7th, 2015)
May. 27th, 1922
Belgravia, London, England, UK
Guest TV Roles
Lucas de Beaumanoir
Rodin the Gardener
King Vladimir V
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee CBE (May 27, 1922 ~ June 7, 2015) was an English actor, singer, author, and World War II veteran. With a career spanning nearly 70 years, Lee initially portrayed villains and became best known for his role as Count Dracula in a sequence of Hammer Horror films. His other film roles include Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit film trilogy (2012–2014), and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002 and 2005).
Lee was knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009, received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011 and received the BFI Fellowship in 2013. Lee considered his best performance to be that of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the biopic Jinnah (1998), and his best film to be the British horror film The Wicker Man (1973). He frequently appeared opposite Peter Cushing in Hammer Horror films, and late in his career had roles in six Tim Burton films.
Always noted as an actor for his deep strong voice, Lee was also known for his singing ability, recording various opera and musical pieces between 1986 and 1998 and the symphonic metal album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross in 2010 after having worked with several metal bands since 2005. The heavy metal follow-up titled Charlemagne: The Omens of Death was released on 27 May 2013. He was honoured with the "Spirit of Metal" award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden God awards ceremony.
Lee had numerous parts in film and television throughout the 1950s but didn't achieve stardom until his association with Hammer Film Productions, which started with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), all co-starring 'Peter Cushing'. Lee continued his role as "Dracula" in a number of Hammer sequels throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. During this time, he made numerous appearances as Fu Manchu, most notably in the first of the series The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), and also appeared in a number of films in Europe. With his own production company, Charlemagne Productions, Ltd., Lee made Nothing But the Night (1973) and To the Devil a Daughter (1976). By the mid-1970s, Lee was tiring of his horror image and tried to widen his appeal by participating in several mainstream films, such as The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1974), and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
The success of these films prompted him in the late 1970s to move to Hollywood, where he remained a busy actor but made mostly unremarkable film and television appearances, and eventually moved back to England. Lee's career was revitalized in the early 2000s by his appearances in two blockbuster film franchises: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (as Saruman the White) and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) (as Count Dooku). In 2001, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the film and television industries.
Lee was introduced to Danish painter and former model Birgit "Gitte" Krøncke by a Danish friend and his wife in 1960. They were engaged soon after and married on 17 March 1961. They had a daughter, Christina Erika Carandini Lee (b. 1963), who married Juan Francisco Aneiros Rodriguez in July 2001. Lee was also the uncle of the British actress Dame Harriet Walter. Both Lee and his daughter Christina provided spoken vocals on Rhapsody of Fire's album From Chaos to Eternity.
Lee died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital (June 7, 2015) at 8:30 am after being admitted for respiratory problems and heart failure, shortly after celebrating his 93rd birthday there. His wife delayed the public announcement until June 11, 2015 in order to break the news to their family.
- In a bonding of two generations of Frankenstein's monsters, Lee and his wife were good friends with 'Boris Karloff' (qv) and his wife. This friendship wasn't as a result of them working together (they made two films together, _Corridors of Blood (1958)_ (qv) and _Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)_ (qv)) but by the coincidence that they lived next door to each other in England.
- In _Dracula (1958)_ (qv), Lee in the title role had to drop a woman into a grave, but when he carried her, she was unexpectedly heavy and in trying to drop her into the grave, Lee also fell in with her.
- His stepfather (his mother's second husband) was the maternal uncle of writer 'Ian Fleming (I)' (qv) (of James Bond fame). Lee and Fleming are therefore step-cousins.
- A distant cousin and frequent golfing partner of Bond creator 'Ian Fleming (I)' (qv), Lee was the author's personal pick for the role of _Dr. No (1962)_ (qv) in the first 007 film. The part, of course, went to actor 'Joseph Wiseman' (qv), who was brilliant. However, fans of the literary Bond might want to check out Lee's portrayal of Chinese master criminal Fu Manchu, for an idea of how 'Ian Fleming (I)' (qv) himself envisioned Dr. No.
- (2001) In a radio interview in South Africa, Lee claimed that he held the record for number of film roles by an actor.
- He is fluent in German.
- During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Air Force and in British Intelligence.
- He is of noble Italian ancestry on his mother's side (Carandini).