Christopher Lee: Au Revoir Charlemagne

Christopher Lee, Two Towers Signing, Jan 2008, Danacea

Christopher Lee, actor, author and heavy metal singer, died at 8.30am on Sunday 7th June at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

Born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, the prolific actor would end his career having been knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity, and awarded the Bafta fellowship two year later. The Second World War veteran was an icon to many generations over his 70 year career, in which he put together a diverse portfolio.

Lee first became a household name with a series of horror films from Hammer Film Productions, most notably 1958’s Dracula. From there he moved on the The Wicker Man, the James Bond franchise and in later life to Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, in which he played the wizard Saruman.

Among his other 206 movie roles were plenty of lesser-known gigs, including five Tim Burton movies, and portrayals of both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. He even appeared in sixteen video games.

As the film tally implies, Lee never retired. Still to be released is the fantasy film Angels in Notting Hill, in which he plays a god figure. At the time of his death he was preparing to star in a 9/11 drama opposite Uma Thurman, due to begin filming in November.

In later years, Lee also released five separate heavy metal LPs and EPs, most notably his Charlemagne concept albums. Far from a late life crisis, 2010’s Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross received the “Spirit of Metal” award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden God awards.

Since Lee’s death tributes have poured in from across the world. Tony Iommi, the Black Sabbath guitarist, shared a picture of the two together in a tweet, saying: “So sad to hear about the loss of Sir Christopher Lee. The man was truly a legend.”

Former The Man with the Golden Gun co-star Roger Moore also wrote on the social network: “It’s terrible when you lose an old friend, and Christopher Lee was one of my oldest. We first met in 1948.”

Above all Lee was a wryly humorous man. His autobiography tells of a movie sword fight with Errol Flynn that left his little finger scarred and misshapen. Years later, he got revenge when he managed the ‘extremely difficult sword stunt’ of swiping Flynn’s wig off on a TV show.

Lee is survived by his wife of 54 years, Birgit, and his daughter, Christina.

Header Image – Christopher Lee at Forbidden Planet New Oxford Street, January 2008 by Danacea

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