Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
ChristopherLee.jpg
Name:
Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
Origin:
Belgravia, London, England
Date of Birth:
May 27, 1922
Date of Death:
June 7, 2015
Occupation(s):
Actor, Author, Singer

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ (born May 27, 1922 - June 7, 2015) was an English actor, author and singer. He has appeared in many small roles in Tim Burton films beginning with Sleepy Hollow.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Lee was born in Belgravia, London, the son of Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee (1879–1941) of the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps, and his wife, Countess Estelle Marie (née Carandini di Sarzano; 1889–1981). Lee's father fought in the Boer War and First World War, and his mother was an Edwardian beauty who was painted by Sir John Lavery, Oswald Birley, and Olive Snell, and sculpted by Clare Sheridan; her lineage can be traced to Charlemagne. Lee's maternal great-grandfather was an Italian political refugee whose wife, Lee's great-grandmother, was English-born opera singer Marie Carandini (née Burgess). He had one sister, Xandra Carandini Lee (1917–2002).

Lee's parents separated when he was four and divorced two years later. During this time, his mother took his sister and him to Wengen in Switzerland. After enrolling in Miss Fisher's Academy in Territet, he played his first role, as Rumpelstiltskin. They then returned to London, where Lee attended Wagner's private school in Queen's Gate, and his mother married Harcourt George St-Croix Rose, a banker and uncle of Ian Fleming. Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, thus became Lee's step-cousin. The family moved to Fulham, living next door to the actor Eric Maturin. One night, he was introduced to Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the assassins of Grigori Rasputin, whom Lee was to play many years later.

When Lee was nine, he was sent to Summer Fields School, a preparatory school in Oxford whose pupils often later attended Eton. He continued acting in school plays, though "the laurels deservedly went to Patrick Macnee." Lee applied for a scholarship to Eton, where his interview was in the presence of the ghost story author M. R. James. Sixty years later, Lee played the part of James for the BBC. His poor maths skills meant that he placed eleventh, and thus missed out on being a King's Scholar by one place. His step-father was not prepared to pay the higher fees that being an Oppidan Scholar meant, and so he did not attend. Instead, Lee attended Wellington College, where he won scholarships in the classics, studying Ancient Greek and Latin. Aside from a "tiny part" in a school play, he didn't act while at Wellington. He was a "passable" racquets player and fencer and a competent cricketer but did not do well at the other sports played: hockey, football, rugby and boxing. He disliked the parades and weapons training and would always "play dead" as soon as possible during mock battles. Lee was frequently beaten at school, including once at Wellington for "being beaten too often," though he accepted them as "logical and therefore acceptable" punishments for knowingly breaking the rules. At age 17, and with one year left at Wellington, the summer term of 1939 was his last. His step-father had gone bankrupt, owing £25,000.

His mother separated from Rose, and Lee had to get a job, his sister already working as a secretary for the Church of England Pensions Board. With most employers on or preparing to go on summer holidays, there were no immediate opportunities for Lee, and so he was sent to the French Riviera, where his sister was on holiday with friends. On his way there he stopped briefly in Paris, where he stayed with the journalist Webb Miller, a friend of Rose, and witnessed Eugen Weidmann's execution by guillotine – the last public execution performed in France. Arriving in Menton, he stayed with the Russian Mazirov family, living among exiled princely families. It was arranged that he should stay on in Menton after his sister had returned home, but with Europe on the brink of war, he returned to London instead. He worked as an office clerk for United States Lines, taking care of the mail and running errands.

Career[edit | edit source]

1947–1957: Career beginnings[edit | edit source]

Returning to London in 1946, Lee was offered his old job back at Beecham's, with a significant raise, but he turned them down as "I couldn't think myself back into the office frame of mind." The Armed Forces were sending veterans with an education in the Classics to teach at universities, but Lee felt his Latin was too rusty and didn't care for the strict curfews. During lunch with his cousin Nicolò Carandini, now the Italian Ambassador to Britain, Lee was detailing his war wounds when Carandini said, "Why don't you become an actor, Christopher?" Lee liked the idea, and after assuaging his mother's protests by pointing to the successful Carandini performers in Australia (which included his great-grandmother Marie Carandini, who had been a successful opera singer), he met Nicolò's friend Filippo Del Giudice, a lawyer-turned-film producer. The head of Two Cities Films, part of the Rank Organisation, Giudice, "looked me up and down... [and] concluded that I was just what the industry had been looking for." He was sent to see Josef Somlo for a contract, who immediately announced that he was "much too tall to be an actor." Somlo sent him to see Rank's David Henley and Olive Dodds, who signed him on a seven-year contract.

A student at Rank's "Charm School," Lee and many of the others had difficulty finding work. He finally made his film début in Terence Young's Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors (1947). He played Charles; the director got around his height by placing him at a table in a nightclub alongside Lois Maxwell, Mavis Villiers, Hugh Latimer and John Penrose. Lee had a single line, "a satirical shaft meant to qualify the lead's bravura."

His "apprenticeship" lasted ten years, as he mostly played supporting and background characters.

Also in this early period, he made an uncredited appearance in Laurence Olivier's film version of Hamlet (1948), as a spear carrier (his later co-star and close friend Peter Cushing played Osric). A few years later, he appeared in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951) as a Spanish captain. He was cast when the director asked him if he could speak Spanish and fence, which he was able to do. Lee appeared uncredited in the American epic Quo Vadis (also 1951), which was shot in Rome, playing a chariot driver and was injured when he was thrown from it at one point during the shoot.

He recalled that his breakthrough came in 1952, when Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. began making films at the British National Studios. He said in 2006, "I was cast in various roles in 16 of them and even appeared with Buster Keaton and it proved an excellent training ground." The same year, he appeared in John Huston's Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge. Throughout the next decade, he made nearly 30 films, including The Cockleshell Heroes, playing mostly stock action characters.

1957–1976: Work with Hammer[edit | edit source]

Lee's first film for Hammer was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), in which he played Frankenstein's monster, with Peter Cushing as Baron Victor Frankenstein. It was the first film to co-star Lee and Cushing, who ultimately appeared together in over twenty films and became close friends. When he arrived at a casting session for the film, "they asked me if I wanted the part, I said yes and that was that." A little later, Lee co-starred with Boris Karloff in the film Corridors of Blood (1958). Lee had previously appeared with Karloff in 1955 in the "At Night, All Cats are Grey" episode of the British television series Colonel March of Scotland Yard.

Lee's Dracula is a force of nature: red-eyed, blood dripping from fangs, often in the grip of rage. He's hypnotic, physically powerful, well-spoken, but Lee also understood – crucially – that an important layer from Bram Stoker's novel had been missing from Lugosi's performance: sexuality. Lee's Dracula is a rampant sex fiend, using that stare to make buxom ladies everywhere come over a little faint.

Lee's own appearance as Frankenstein's monster led to his first appearance as the Transylvanian vampire Count Dracula in the film Dracula (1958, known as Horror of Dracula in the US). A critically acclaimed film that saw Lee fix the image of the fanged vampire in popular culture, Dracula has been ranked among the best British films. Lee also introduced a dark, brooding sexuality to the character, with Tim Stanley stating, "Lee's sensuality was subversive in that it hinted that women might quite like having their neck chewed on by a stud." The film magazine Empire ranked Lee's portrayal as Dracula the 7th Greatest Horror Movie Character of All Time. CNN listed the performance third in their top 10 British villains, noting his "chilling, sonorous tone." Lee accepted a similar role in an Italian-French horror picture called Uncle Was a Vampire (1959).

Lee returned to the role of Dracula in Hammer's Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965). Lee's role has no lines, he merely hisses his way through the film. Stories vary as to the reason for this: Lee states he refused to speak the poor dialogue he was given, but screenwriter Jimmy Sangster claims that the script did not contain any lines for the character. This film set the standard for most of the Dracula sequels in the sense that half the film's running time was spent on telling the story of Dracula's resurrection and the character's appearances were brief. Lee went on record to state that he was virtually "blackmailed" by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films; unable or unwilling to pay him his going rate, they would resort to reminding him of how many people he would put out of work, if he did not take part.

His roles in the films Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), and Scars of Dracula (1970) all gave the Count very little to do. Lee said in an interview in 2005, "all they do is write a story and try and fit the character in somewhere, which is very clear when you see the films. They gave me nothing to do! I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written. Occasionally, I sneaked one in." Although Lee may not have liked what Hammer was doing with the character, worldwide audiences embraced the films, which were all commercially successful.

Lee starred in two further Dracula films for Hammer in the early 1970s, both of which attempted to bring the character into the modern-day era. These were not commercially successful: Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). The latter film was tentatively titled Dracula Is Dead... and Well and Living in London, a parody of the stage and film musical revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, but Lee was not amused. Speaking at a press conference in 1973 to announce the film, Lee said, "I'm doing it under protest... I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives – fatuous, pointless, absurd. It's not a comedy, but it's got a comic title. I don't see the point." The Satanic Rites of Dracula was the last Dracula film that Christopher Lee played the Dracula role in, as he felt he had played the part too many times and that the Dracula films had deteriorated in quality. Hammer went on to make one more Dracula film without him: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), with John Forbes-Robertson playing the Count and David de Keyser dubbing him.

In all, Lee played Dracula ten times: seven films for Hammer Productions, once for Jesse Franco's Count Dracula (1970), uncredited in Jerry Lewis's One More Time (1970) and Édouard Molinaro's Dracula and Son (1976).

Lee's other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959). Lee portrayed Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1966) and Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing's Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959). Lee later played Holmes himself in 1962's Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and returned to Holmes films with Billy Wilder's British-made The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), in which he plays Sherlock's smarter brother, Mycroft. Lee considers this film to be the reason he stopped being typecast: "I've never been typecast since. Sure, I've played plenty of heavies, but as Anthony Hopkins says, "I don't play villains, I play people."" Lee played a leading role in the German film The Puzzle of the Red Orchid (1962), speaking German, which he had learned during his education in Switzerland. He auditioned for a part in the film The Longest Day (1962), but was turned down because he did not "look like a military man." Some film books incorrectly credit him with a role in the film, something he had to correct for the rest of his life.

Lee's friend Dennis Wheatley, a noted author, was responsible for bringing the occult to him. The company made two films from Wheatley's novels, both starring Lee. The first, The Devil Rides Out (1967), is generally considered to be one of Hammer's crowning achievements. According to Lee, Wheatley was so pleased with it, that he offered the actor the film rights to his remaining black magic novels, free of charge. However, the second film, To the Devil a Daughter (1976), was fraught with production difficulties and was disowned by its author. Although financially successful, it was Hammer's last horror film, and marked the end of Lee's long association with the studio that had a major impact on his career.

Various roles: The Wicker Man and James Bond[edit | edit source]

Like Cushing, Lee also appeared in horror films for other companies during the 20-year period from 1957 to 1977. Other films in which Lee performed include the series of Fu Manchu films made between 1965 and 1969, in which he starred as the villain in heavy oriental make-up; I, Monster (1971), in which he played Jekyll and Hyde; The Creeping Flesh (1972); and his personal favourite, The Wicker Man (1973), in which he played Lord Summerisle. Lee wanted to break free of his image as Dracula and take on more interesting acting roles. He met with screenwriter Anthony Shaffer, and they agreed to work together. Film director Robin Hardy and British Lion head Peter Snell became involved in the project. Shaffer had a series of conversations with Hardy, and the two decided that it would be fun to make a horror film centring on "old religion," in sharp contrast to the popular Hammer films of the day. Shaffer read the David Pinner novel Ritual, in which a devout Christian policeman is called to investigate what appears to be the ritual murder of a young girl in a rural village, and decided that it would serve well as the source material for the project. Shaffer and Lee paid Pinner £15,000 for the rights to the novel, and Schaffer set to work on the screenplay. However, he soon decided that a direct adaptation would not work well, and began to craft a new story, using only the basic outline of the novel. Lee was so keen to get the film made, he gave his services for free, as the budget was so small. He would later refer to the film as the best he had ever made.

Lee appeared as the on-screen narrator in Jess Franco's Eugenie (1970) as a favour to producer Harry Alan Towers, unaware that it was softcore pornography, as the sex scenes were shot separately. In addition to making films in the United Kingdom, Lee made films in mainland Europe: he appeared in two German films, Count Dracula (1970), where he again played the vampire count, and The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967). Other films in Europe he made include Castle of the Living Dead (1964) and Horror Express (1972). Lee was a producer of the horror film Nothing But the Night (also 1972), in which he also starred. It was the first and last film he ever produced, as he did not enjoy the process.

Lee appeared as the Comte de Rochefort in Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers (1973). He was wounded in his left knee during filming, an injury he still felt many years later. He also appeared in the sequel film The Four Musketeers (1974), which was actually shot at the same time. Although "killed" in the latter film, he reprised the role in The Return of the Musketeers (1989), with his character given token dialogue explaining that his wound in the earlier film's climactic sword fight wasn't fatal.

After the mid-1970s, Lee eschewed horror roles almost entirely. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels and Lee's step-cousin, had offered him the role of the titular antagonist in the first Eon-produced Bond film Dr. No (1962). Lee enthusiastically accepted, but by the time Fleming told the producers, they had already chosen Joseph Wiseman for the role. Lee finally got to play a James Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), in which he was cast as the deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga. Lee said of his performance, "In Fleming's novel he's just a West Indian thug, but in the film he's charming, elegant, amusing, lethal... I played him like the dark side of Bond."

Because of his filming schedule in Bangkok, film director Ken Russell was unable to sign Lee to play the Specialist in Tommy (1975). That role was eventually given to Jack Nicholson. In an AMC documentary on Halloween (1978), John Carpenter states that he offered the role of Samuel Loomis to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, before Donald Pleasence took the role. Years later, Lee met Carpenter, and told him that the biggest regret of his career was not taking the role of Dr. Loomis.

Lee appeared on the cover of the Wings album Band on the Run (1973), along with others including chat show host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, film actor James Coburn, world boxing champion John Conteh, and broadcaster Clement Freud.

1977: Move to Hollywood[edit | edit source]

In 1977, Lee left the UK for the US, concerned at being typecast in horror films, as had happened to his close friends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. He said in an interview in 2011:

His first American film was the disaster film Airport '77 (1977). In 1978, Lee surprised many people with his willingness to go along with a joke, by appearing as guest host on NBC's Saturday Night Live. As a result of his appearance on SNL, Steven Spielberg, who was in the audience, cast him in 1941 (1979). Meanwhile, Lee co-starred with Bette Davis in the Disney film Return from Witch Mountain (1978). He turned down the role of Dr. Barry Rumack (finally played by Leslie Nielsen) in the disaster spoof Airplane! (1980), a decision he later called "a big mistake."

Lee appeared in The Return of Captain Invincible (1982), a comedy-musical film. Lee sings on two tracks in the film ("Name Your Poison" and "Mister Midnight"), written by Richard O'Brien (who had written The Rocky Horror Picture Show seven years previously) and Richard Hartley. Later, he appeared alongside Reb Brown and Sybil Danning in Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985). Lee made his last appearances as Sherlock Holmes in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). In addition to more than a dozen feature films together for Hammer Films, Amicus Productions, and other companies, Lee and Peter Cushing both appeared in Hamlet (1948) and Moulin Rouge (1952), albeit in separate scenes; and in separate instalments of the Star Wars films: Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original film and Lee decades later as Count Dooku. The last project which united them in person was a documentary, Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror (1994), which they jointly narrated. It was the last time they saw each other, as Cushing died two months later.

In 1998, Lee starred in the role of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in the film Jinnah. In 2002, while talking about his favourite role in film at a press conference at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, he declared that his role in Jinnah was his best performance and called Muhammad Ali Jinnah "an incorruptible man of great integrity and vision."

Lee was considered for the role of comic book villain/hero Magneto in the screen adaptation of the popular comic book series X-Men, but he lost the role to Sir Ian McKellen, his co-star in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

2000s: The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars[edit | edit source]

He had many television roles, including that of Flay in the BBC television miniseries, based on Mervyn Peake's novels, Gormenghast (2000), and Stefan Wyszyński in the CBS film John Paul the Second (2005). He played Lucas de Beaumanoir, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, in the BBC/A&E co-production of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1997). He played a role in the made-for-TV series La Révolution française (1989) in part 2, "Les Années Terribles," as the executioner, Charles-Henri Sanson, who beheaded King Louis XVI, Maximilien de Robespierre, and others.

Lee played Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. In the commentary, he stated he had a decades-long dream to play Gandalf, but that he was now too old, and that his physical limitations prevented him from being considered. The role of Saruman, by contrast, required no horse riding and much less fighting. Lee had met J. R. R. Tolkien once (making him the only person involved in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to have done so) and made a habit of reading the novels at least once a year. In addition, he performed for the album The Lord of the Rings: Songs and Poems by J.R.R. Tolkien in 2003. Lee's appearance in the final film in the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, was cut from the theatrical release, but the scene was reinstated in the extended edition.

The Lord of the Rings marked the beginning of a major career revival that continued in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which he played the villainous Count Dooku. He did most of the swordplay himself, though a double was required for the long shots with more vigorous footwork. Lee was one of the favourite actors of Tim Burton, and became a regular in many of Burton's films, working for the director five times, starting in 1999, where he had a small role as the Burgomaster in the film Sleepy Hollow. In 2005, Lee played Willy Wonka's strict dentist father, Dr. Wilbur Wonka, in Burton's reimagining of the Roald Dahl tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and voiced the character of Pastor Galswells in Corpse Bride, co-directed by Burton and Mike Johnson.

In 2007, Lee collaborated with Burton on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, playing the spirit of Sweeney Todd's victims, called the Gentleman Ghost, alongside Anthony Head, with both singing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," its reprises and the Epilogue. These songs were recorded, but eventually cut since Burton felt that the songs were too theatrical for the film. Lee's appearance was completely cut from the film, but Head still had an uncredited one-line cameo. In 2008, he was offered the role of King Balor in Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but had to turn it down due to prior commitments.

In late November 2009, Lee narrated the Science Fiction Festival in Trieste, Italy. Also in 2009, Lee starred in Stephen Poliakoff's British period drama Glorious 39 with Julie Christie, Bill Nighy, Romola Garai, and David Tennant, Academy Award-nominated director Danis Tanović's war film Triage with Colin Farrell and Paz Vega, and Duncan Ward's comedy Boogie Woogie alongside Amanda Seyfried, Gillian Anderson, Stellan Skarsgård, and Joanna Lumley.

2010s: Later roles[edit | edit source]

In 2010, Lee marked his fourth collaboration with Tim Burton by voicing the Jabberwock in Burton's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic book Alice in Wonderland, alongside Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. While he only had two lines, Burton said that he felt Lee to be a good match for the iconic character, because of Lee himself being "an iconic guy." In 2010, Lee received the Steiger Award (Germany) and, in February 2011, Lee was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.

In 2011, he appeared in a Hammer film, The Resident, for the first time in thirty-five years, the last being 1976's To the Devil a Daughter. The film was directed by Antti Jokinen, and Lee gave a "superbly sinister" performance alongside Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Whilst filming scenes for the film in New Mexico in early 2009, Lee injured his back when he tripped over power cables on set. He had to undergo surgery, and as a result, he was unable to play the role of Sir Lachlan Morrison in The Wicker Tree. Very disappointed, director Robin Hardy recast the role, but Lee was determined to appear in the film, so Hardy wrote a small scene specially for him. Lee appears as the unnamed "Old Gentleman" who acts as Lachlan's mentor in a flashback. Hardy stated that fans of The Wicker Man would recognise this character as Lord Summerisle, but Lee contradicted this, stating that they are two unrelated characters. Also in 2011, Lee appeared in the critically acclaimed Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese.

On 11 January 2011, Lee announced on his website that he would be reprising the role of Saruman for the prequel film The Hobbit. Lee had originally said that he would have liked to have shown Saruman's corruption by Sauron, but that he wouldn't be comfortable flying to New Zealand at his age. The production was adjusted to accommodate Lee's travel concerns, thereby allowing him to participate in the film from London. Lee said he worked on his role for the films over the course of four days, portraying Saruman as a kind and noble (if somewhat cantankerous) wizard, before his subsequent fall into darkness, as depicted in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

In 2012, Lee marked his fifth and final collaboration with Tim Burton, by appearing in Burton's film adaptation of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, in the small role of a New England fishing captain.

In an interview in August 2013, Lee said that he was "saddened" to hear his friend Johnny Depp considering retirement from acting, noting that he himself had no intention of retiring.

Lee narrated the feature-length documentary Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics, which was released on 25 October 2013. In 2014, he appeared in an episode of the BBC documentary series Timeshift called How to Be Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces of a Master Detective. Lee and others who had played Sherlock Holmes discussed the character and the various interpretations of him. He also appeared in a web exclusive, reading an excerpt from the short story The Final Problem. He also narrated an advertising campaign for Age UK, reading a poem by Roger McGough.

A month before his death, Lee had signed to star with an ensemble cast in the Danish film The 11th. His final performance was the independent Angels of Notting Hill directed by Michael Pakleppa, a comedy about an angel trapped in London who falls in love with a human being. Lee plays The Boss / Mr President and the film premiered in the Regent Street Cinema, London on Saturday 29 October 2016. Lee recorded his final words for film at his Redwood Studios in Soho, London on 17 May 2015 just 3 weeks before his death on 7 June 2015.

Voice work[edit | edit source]

Lee spoke fluent English, Italian, French, Spanish, and German, and was moderately proficient in Swedish, Russian, and Greek. He was the original voice of Thor in the German dubs of the Danish 1986 animated film Valhalla, and of King Haggard in both the English and German dubs of the 1982 animated adaptation of The Last Unicorn.

Lee provided the off-camera voice of "U. N. Owen," the mysterious host who brings disparate characters together in Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (1965). The film was produced by Harry Alan Towers, for whom Lee had worked repeatedly in the 1960s. Even though he was not credited on the film, his voice is unmistakable. He also provided all the voices for the English dub of Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953).

He contributed with his voice as Death in the animated versions of Terry Pratchett's Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters, and reprised the role in the Sky1 live action adaptation The Colour of Magic, taking over the role from the late Ian Richardson.

Lee reprised his role as Saruman in the video game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth along with the other actors of the films. He narrated and sang for the Danish musical group The Tolkien Ensemble's 2003 studio album At Dawn in Rivendell, taking the role of Treebeard, King Théoden and others in the readings or singing of their respective poems or songs. In 2007, he voiced the transcript of The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkien for the audiobook version of the novel.

In 2005, Lee provided the voice of Pastor Galswells in The Corpse Bride, co-directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson. He served as the narrator on The Nightmare Before Christmas' poem, written by Tim Burton as well. Lee reprised his role as Count Dooku in the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), but Corey Burton took his place for the character in the TV series. From 2008 until 2010, Lee was the host and narrator of "Mystery Theater" which aired on radio worldwide. Lee introduced American classic radio mystery, sci-fi and detective programs in a series produced, written and directed by Carl Amari. In 2010, he collaborated again with Tim Burton, this time by voicing the Jabberwocky in Burton's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic book Alice in Wonderland.

Some thirty years after playing Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lee provided the voice of Scaramanga in the video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. In 2013, Lee voiced The Earl of Earl's Court in the BBC Radio 4 radio play Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Lee recorded special dialogue, in addition to serving as the Narrator, for the Lego The Hobbit video game released in April 2014; at 91 years and 316 days old he appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest video game narrator.

Death[edit | edit source]

Lee died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 7 June 2015 at 8:30 am after being admitted for respiratory problems and heart failure, shortly after celebrating his 93rd birthday. His wife delayed the public announcement until 11 June, to break the news to their family.

Following Lee's death, fans, friends, actors, directors and others involved in the film industry publicly gave their personal tributes. The UK Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, called Lee a "titan of the golden age of cinema." He was also honoured by the Academy at the 88th Academy Awards on 28 February 2016 in the annual in Memoriam section.

External links[edit | edit source]

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