It’s a sad week for cinephiles everywhere. Horror icon Christopher Lee died last Sunday, June 7, 2015, in a London hospital, at the age of 93, due to respiratory problems and heart failure. The announced was delayed until June 11 so that the actor’s family members could be informed and a have a moment of privacy before the news broke.
British villains have always had a great level of charm. Be it sex-appeal, humor, elegance or gravitas they always manage to make audiences question whether or not they really want to be rooting for the hero, and often steal every scene from him.
Sir Christopher Lee has played such characters all throughout his life. He has enjoyed a long, steady career that started way back in the late 1940s and spawned more than 275 movies. He reached mainstream popularly sometime in the 1950s thanks to his portrayal of classic monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Mummy in Hammer films.
He saw another rise in popularity in the 1990s and became a part of some of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood in the early 2000s. In 2005, USA Today announced him to be “the most marketable star in the world”.
Towering at 6 feet 5 inches (1.93 meters), with piercing eyes that could see right through you and a deep voice that could be both menacing and calming, his physic may have helped him craft imposing, memorable bad guys that we genuinely believed could pose a threat to the ever capable protagonists. He was at one point described as being “tall, dark and gruesome”.
But it’s his comedic timing, dramatic depth and the unspoken human emotions, as well as the honesty that he imprinted on his characters that made us love his villains. Lee himself described the monsters he portrayed as being condemned to “the loneliness of evil”.
Although he was versatile actor who could play Sherlock Holmes every bit as well as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Comte de Rochefort, Saruman or Count Dooku, it’s probably his work in the horror genre that he will be remembered for the most.
His most famous role is that of the legendary blood sucker Dracula in the movie “Horror of Dracula”. His performance as the Count from Transylvania is every bit as praised as that of Bela Lugosi’s. Critics agree that he managed to take a character that had become campy, cheap and non-threatening and restore him to his rightful place as one of cinema’s greatest and most complicated forces of evil. He ended up playing Count Dracula about ten times over the course of the years.
Ironically, Sir Christopher Lee was not a fan of the word “horror” at all. He gave an interview to the New York Times in 2002 stating that “it implies something nauseating, revolting, disgusting”. He said that that is something we see all too much of in the real world these days and that he prefers to refer to it as “fantasy” instead.
Several celebrities and public figures have taken to Twitter to express their sadness. David Cameron, British prime minister, referred to Lee as a titan of the golden age of cinema, while Boris Johnson, mayor pf London, referred to him as one of the greatest British actors and called him “a master of the macabre”.
Famous Hollywood director Tim Burton worked with Lee on five different movies and twitted, referring to him as one of the true legends of cinema and calling him “the last of his kind”.
Joey DeMaio, Manowar’s bassist took to Facebook to write that the band is mourning the loss of Lee. He called him a great man, a great actor, “but also a great singer and a dear friend”.
Another one of Sir Christopher Lee’s passions was music, heavy metal to be exact. He became a fan in early 70s, after first hearing the almighty Black Sabbath. To make things even more special, Tony Iommi, the band’s guitarist, was a fan on Lee’s as well.
He released several heavy metal albums, and in 2013 he entered the charts with his single “Jingle Hell”, at the age of 91. Billboard Hot 100 had him at number 22, and he was the oldest living musician to enter music charts.
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