Do you remember that episode of Futurama where Leela meets the wicked witch and she gets really pumped about learning how to do evil and shoot lightning from her fingers? That’s kinda how I viewed Christopher Lee as a kid. I had always admired villains far more than heroes, but there was something about Saruman and Dooku that I absolutely adored. From his voice down to his gnarly ass fingers, Lee immortalized those characters for me.
I’m not going to pretend I could appreciate his portrayal as Sherlock Holmes or Dracula as much as my grandmother did, but it speaks volumes about a person that he can be renowned throughout three different generations for entirely different reasons. He has been listed with 281 credits to his acting name and holds the record for appearing in more films than any person in the world (living or dead). So it’d be near impossible to cover his best, but I can cover some of my favorite moments from his life and career.
Scaramanga or The Man With The Golden Gun
Lee was a step-cousin of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels. About 1962, Fleming suggested that Lee would be perfect for the role of Dr. No in the film version, but this did not come to pass. Twelve years later, Lee was selected to play the part of Francisco Scaramanga. Just think about this for a second…imagine writing a book about a secret agent in the British forces and knowing someone who was actually a member of the SAS. Oh didn’t I mention that Christopher Lee was an all-around badass? Let me clarify.
During the filming of Saruman’s death scene in The Return of the King, Peter Jackson began to coach him how to react when getting stabbed in the back by Grima. Jackson expected him to yell dramatically, but Lee interrupted him, reminding him that Lee actually had heard the sound a man makes when he is stabbed in the back.
“I was attached to the SAS from time to time, but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read into that what they like.”
He was a volunteer fighter for Finland before WW2, during WW2 he saw concentration camps in person in North Africa, and after WW2 he spent some time hunting Nazi war criminals. So in other words, how long do you think it will be until we see a Christopher Lee biopic in the works?
Oh what’s this? Just Lee being made Knight Bachelor for his services to drama and charity. Did you notice he’s not kneeling? Lee kneels to no one! (Okay it may have something to do with his age)
METAL AS FUCK
“I associate heavy metal with fantasy because of the tremendous power that the music delivers.”
This dude released a heavy metal album in his 90’s! His 90’s. It also oozes out nerd fantastic-ness. Lee already possessed an operatic bass voice, and had sung for many films and soundtracks. His first complete album was called Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, which tells the story of the first Holy Roman Emperor in sordid glory and symphonic awesomeness. Some lyrics for you:
“I shed the blood of Saxon men!
I shed the blood of the Saxon men!
I shed the blood of the Saxon men!
I shed the blood of the Saxon men!”
Lee’s portrayal of the illusive (and obviously evil) Dooku brought an air of acting hierarchy that was greatly needed in the new trilogy. With his cool demeanor and velvet voice, Darth Tyranus made us seriously wonder “maybe Dooku could beat Yoda?”
Lee was such a huge fan of LOTR that he claimed on the special features from the first trilogy to have read the book once every year. He is also the only cast member to have met Tolkien in person. When meeting the literary great at a pub, Lee found himself so star struck he could barely speak.
When he heard that The Lord of the Rings was being made, he landed the role of the wizard Olwyn in the TV series The New Adventures of Robin Hood. “The only reason I did that was to show anyone who was watching that I could play a wizard, and that I would be ideal casting for The Lord of the Rings,” Lee explained. “I sent [Peter Jackson] a picture of myself all made-up in the wizard’s role, but it was more in the nature of a joke, really. ‘This is what I look like as a wizard, don’t forget this when you cast the movie.’ It wasn’t me putting myself forward at all, because I think Peter had already made up his mind. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway, that he never thought of anybody else for Saruman, except for me, so it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.”
I can’t really say that Christopher Lee passed on as much as he ascended this primitive place to a better one and I’ll imagine he’s with many of his friends hanging out and sword fighting for eternity. Good job at completing life, old friend.