Christopher Lee dies at 93LONDON — Christopher Lee, an actor who brought dramatic gravitas and aristocratic bearing to screen villains from Dracula to the wicked wizard Saruman in “The Lord of the Rings’’ trilogy, has died at age 93.
Lee appeared in more than 250 movies, taking on memorable roles such as the James Bond enemy Scaramanga and the evil Count Dooku in two “Star Wars’’ prequels.
But for many, he will forever be known as the vampire Count Dracula in a slew of gory, gothic British “Hammer Horror’’ thrillers churned out in the 1950s and 1960s that became hugely popular around the world.
He railed against the typecasting, however, and ultimately the sheer number and range of his roles — including Sherlock Holmes and the founder of Pakistan — secured his place in film history.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London on Thursday issued a statement confirming that Lee died June 7. Lee’s agent said his family declined to comment or provide more details.
Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born in London on May 27, 1922. His father was a British army officer who had served in the Boer War and his mother was Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano. His parents separated when he was young, and his mother later remarried Harcourt Rose, the uncle of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
Lee attended Wellington College, an elite boarding school, and joined the Royal Air Force during World War II. Poor eyesight prevented him from becoming a pilot, and he served as an intelligence officer in North Africa and Italy.
After the war, the 6-foot-4 Lee was signed to a contract with Britain’s Rank studio, and spent the next decade playing minor roles in a series of formulaic pictures.
Lee made his first appearance as the famous vampire in “Dracula,’’ opposite Cushing’s Van Helsing.
Starting in the 1970s, Lee played the villain in “The Man With the Golden Gun’’ and appeared in non-Hammer horror films.
The most distinguished was 1973’s “The Wicker Man,’’ a cult classic in which Lee played the lord of a Scottish pagan community troubled by the appearance of an inquisitive police officer.
Lee appeared in so many movies that he acknowledged he couldn’t remember them all.
“And certainly some of them you want to forget,’’ he said in 2002. AP