Sir Christopher Frank Caradini Lee is a legendary English actor, whose mother was a famous and beautiful Contessa Estelle Marie (often painted by famous artists) and whose father was Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee. When Christopher was just a little boy, his parents split and he went to Switzerland to live with his mother and sister.
Young Lee fell in love with acting at a very tender age, and decided to choose that profession for him. Soon, his mother decided to move to London, and re-marry, and her new love was Ian Fleming’s uncle – banker Harcourt Rose. Christopher Lee dreamed of attending Eton, but failed to sign in so he ended up in Wellington College where he received scholarships in classics.
During his college years, Lee was involved in military actions, during the Winter War against the Soviet Union. He was sent to Finland with the troops, and went to serve in the Air Force afterwards, during World War II (he was also a part of Intelligence at the time). As a successful pilot, he was set in South Africa, but after having eye problems he had to drop out, and he was devastated because of that. He continued to serve the army in North Africa, and was ranked Flight Lieutenant at the end of the World War II.
Soon after the war ended, Christopher Lee started acting and was recognized as an amazing talent. His name soon became the synonym for horror genre, and he became one of the most influential actors of our time. His debut was in a movie called Corridor of Mirrors by Terence Young, which was filmed in 1948. During that year he also played in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (but he wasn’t credited), where he met Peter Cushing who later became one of his favourite acting partners and best friends.
Christopher Lee became very famous after teaming up with Hammer Film Production Company, and starting his new career in the field of horror and mystery movies. First movie he has ever done for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein. The movie was filmed in 1957, and he portrayed Frankenstein’s monster, while his best friend Cushing played the Baron. Corridors of Blood followed, and in 1958 Christopher Lee appeared in Dracula, the story of Transylvanian blood sucking Count. He skipped the movie The Brides of Dracula, but returned to play his famous role in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, in 1965.
Many actors become recognized for particular roles and that happened with Lee as well, he became most popular for his role of Romanian Count Dracula in movies about this villain, from Bram Stoker’s novel. During his work on the movie Dracula: Prince of Darkness, lee had a hard time dealing with the studio, stating that he disliked the script, and was poorly paid. However, he had to respect the contract, and did 3 more films for the Hammer: in 1968 Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste of Blood of Dracula (1969) and Scars of Dracula, filmed in 1970. Christopher Lee was very unhappy with the outcome and thought that Hammer is ruining the character, but the audience was satisfied and all films were very commercially successful.
Christopher Lee decided to part ways with Hammer, but before they were through, he portrayed few more characters in their movies – The Mummy, Sir Henry Baskerville (The Hound of the Baskervilles) and Rasputin (in the movie Rasputin: The mad Monk). He also made 2 more Dracula movies, where the character was set in a modern time, but the audience wasn’t thrilled and these features flopped.
Christopher Lee was a huge fan of occult writer Denis Wheatley and introduced his work to the people in Hammer Studio. They have decided to make two movies based on his novels and Lee starred in them. The first movie they have developed from Wheatley’s writings was The Devil Rides Out (and it was filmed in 1967) and the second one came almost a decade later and was titled To the Devil a Daughter (1976). That movie was the last horror that Hammer produced, and also a movie which marked the end of collaboration between the studio and Christopher Lee.
During his career, Lee filmed Hammer Studio’s movies and films produced by other companies, which included Fu Manchu films like I Monster, The Wicker Man and for instance Alan Gibson’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula. He also portrayed Sherlock Holmes’ smarter brother in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and also starred in Eugenie (not knowing it was soft porn, since all the sex scenes were shot separately, and later re-edited).
After parting ways with Hammer, Christopher Lee decided to work more on non-horror movies, so he transferred to dramas, action films and spy movies. He played the deadly villain Francisco Scaramanga in a 007 movie The Man with the Golden Gun, and also hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live, where the audience was blown away by his charm and humour. Even Spielberg was a fan of this remarkable artist, and gave him a role in his Star Wars saga. Throughout the years Christopher Lee moved through various genres with equal success and played in the following movies: The Return of Captain Invincible, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, Jinnah, Gormenghast, Lord of the Rings, The Heavy etc. In each movie he was powerful, strong, memorable and magnificent.
007 movie The Man with the Golden Gun
Christopher Lee received Queen’s honours and a title of Sir for his artistic achievement, and is one of Tim Burton’s favourite actors (they have worked together on 5 movies, including Burton’s latest Alice in the Wonderland). He often works on voiceovers due to his fantastic voice, and also has received numerous prizes on various festivals for his acting achievements and spectacular roles.
Finally, he is the man whom everyone recognizes as the Count Dracula, since he is one (most famous) of four actors who have ever portrayed this legendary dark villain; other three are Bela Lugosi, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman.
Although he is 87, Lee is still very much in demand and very active, so fans will be able to see him in 6 new movies, in 2010.