Christopher Lee dies at the age of 93 – The Guardian

Sir Christopher Lee, known as the master of horror, has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

The veteran actor, immortalised in films from Dracula to The Wicker Man, and via James Bond villainy to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, died at 8.30am on Sunday morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

His wife, the former Danish model Birgit Kroencke, decided to hold back the information for four days until all family members and friends were informed. The couple had been married for more than 50 years and had one daughter, Christina.

The actor was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity, and was awarded the Bafta fellowship in 2011.

News of his death prompted an outpouring of grief from actors, musicians, and even the prime minister; all paid tribute to Lees great talent.

Tim Burton, the director who worked with Lee on five films, described him as a true legend.

Christopher has been an enormous inspiration to me my entire life. I had the honour and pleasure to work with him on five films (Sleepy Hollow, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows), he said.

He was the last of his kind - a true legend - who Im fortunate to have called a friend. He will continue to inspire me and Im sure countless others for generations to come.

Leading the tributes online were his Lord of the Rings co-stars Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood, as well as Sir Roger Moore, who played 007 opposite Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Prime minister David Cameron called Lee a titan of the golden age of cinema while London mayor Boris Johnson tweeted his condolences alongside a picture of him and Lee together.

Born in Belgravia, London, in 1922 to a military father and an aristocratic mother, Lees film career started in 1947 with a role in the gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors. However, it wasnt until the late 50s, when Lee worked with Hammer, that he started gaining fame. His first role with the studio was The Curse of Frankenstein and it was the first of 20 films that he made with Peter Cushing. Hammer was an important part of my life, and generally speaking, we all had a lot of fun, he said in a 2001 interview.

Lees most famous role for Hammer was playing Dracula, a role which became one of his most widely recognised, although the actor wasnt pleased with how the character was treated. They gave me nothing to do! he told Total Film in 2005. I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written. Occasionally, I sneaked one in. Eventually I told them that I wasnt going to play Dracula any more. All hell broke loose.

In the 70s, Lee continued to gain fame in the horror genre with a role in The Wicker Man, a film which he considered to be his best. Wonderful film ... had a hell of a time getting it made, he said. Its power lies in the fact that you never expect what eventually happens, because everyone is so nice. He went on to play Bond villain Scaramanga in 1974s The Man with the Golden Gun and turned down a role in Halloween, which he later said was one of biggest career regrets. In his career, he also turned down a role in Airplane!, something he also regretted.

His concern over being typecast in horror films led him to Hollywood and roles in Airport 77 and Steven Spielbergs 1941. He was reintroduced to a new generation in 2001 with a role as the evil wizard Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then as Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Lee also became a regular collaborator with Tim Burton, who cast him in Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows. Burton went on to award him with a Bafta fellowship.

In 2011, he returned to Hammer with a role in the Hilary Swank thriller The Resident, although he generally tried to avoid the horror genre in later years. There have been some absolutely ghastly films recently, physically repellent, he said. What we did was fantasy, fairy tales no real person can copy what we did. But they can do what Hannibal Lecter does, if theyre so inclined, people like Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen, and for that reason, I think such films are dangerous.

After dabbling with music throughout much of his career, including a song on The Wicker Man soundtrack, Lee released his first full-length album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross in 2010. It was well-received by the heavy metal community and won him the spirit of metal award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony.

His 2013 single Jingle Hell entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 22, which made him the oldest living artist ever to enter the charts.

The actor never retired from acting and he still has one film yet to be released, the fantasy film Angels in Notting Hill, where he plays a godly figure who looks after the universe. He was also set to star in 9/11 drama The 11th opposite Uma Thurman, which was due to begin filming in November.

In an interview in 2013, Lee spoke about his love of acting. Making films has never just been a job to me, it is my life, he said. I have some interests outside of acting I sing and Ive written books, for instance but acting is what keeps me going, its what I do, it gives life purpose.

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Christopher Lee dies at the age of 93 - The Guardian

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