September 11, 2001 obviously affected more important things than the
Earlier this month, June 7th to be exact, Sir Christopher Lee left this mortal coil and a little piece of my heart broke. Lee was most famous for his portrayal of Dracula in the Hammer films as well as playing other significant monsters such as the Frankenstein monster and the Mummy. But Lee was much more than an iconic horror actor, his life and career were long and full and his personal life was fascinating.
Guinness Book Of World Records
In 2007, Lee held the record of most screen credits at 224 movie and television appearances. He went on to appear in 15 more movies after that. But the records don’t stop there! Lee was also honored in the book as the tallest leading actor standing at 6’5″ and also holds the record of appearing in the most movie sword fights (17).
Lee was born of royal blood on his mother’s side who was an Italian Contessa who shared lineage with Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire. Later in his life he would propose to the daughter of Count Fritz von Rosen who was not such a fan of the actor. Lee was required to provide references, endure relentless investigation of his background, and eventually was told he cold marry the Count’s daughter if he got the approval of the King of Sweden. Which he totally got! The engagement was eventually broken off however because Lee felt he couldn’t provide the life the daughter of a Count deserved given his chosen profession. Both agreed it would be best to just be friends. He would eventually be knighted as well.
Initially, Lee joined the military to be a pilot but because of an optical issue he wasn’t able to fly. Instead, he became an Intelligence Agent in the early days of British Intelligence. During his time as a secret agent he helped retake Sicily, prevented a full on mutiny from his troops, and contracted Malaria SIX times. As if all of that wasn’t impressive enough he later joined Winston Churchill’s organization that would later turn into the Special Operations Executives (aka The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare). His missions are still sealed and classified, even after his death.
After World War II ended, Lee continued his military career tracking down Nazis who had fled Germany. Oh, and did I mention he did all of this before he was 25 years old?
After his service ended in the military, Lee turned to acting. As I said he held the record for most screen credits and sword fights in films. During one of those sword fights with legendary actor and swordsman Errol Flynn, the two were drunkenly dueling when Flynn accidently sliced into Lee’s hand, almost severing his finger.
Lee was almost the original James Bond when his step-cousin and Bond creator, Ian Flemming, began considering actors for his suave secret agent man. Lee’s experience as a secret agent was the driving force for his consideration. Ultimately it didn’t happen but we can all agree that would have been pretty damn awesome.
It’s widely known among the horror community that Lee did grow tired of doing Dracula movies but was guilted by the studio to keep doing them. However, in Dracula: Prince of Darkness Lee never speaks (and with a voice like his it’s hard not to notice). The reason being, Lee felt the script was so abysmal that he refused to speak a word of it. Hammer knew better than to push Lee so they let him do the entire film in silence…and it actually kind of works!
Lee was the only cast member on the set of Lord of the Rings who had actually met Tolkien in real life. Tolkien even gave Lee his permission to play Gandalf should they ever make a movie. When the time came, he was already known for playing villains so he was given the role of Saruman instead. He also read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy once a year for almost his entire life.
After dabbling in military life and acting, he turned to music at the age of 88. He released his first metal album, aptly named Charlemagne: By The Sword And Cross. The album went on to win the “Spirit of Metal” award from the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards. He released another album later on but this time a Christmas metal album. He is the oldest musician to ever hit the Billboard Music Charts.
As he would say many times, his role in The Wicker Man as Lord Summerisle was his favorite role. He wanted to do the movie so much that he waived his salary to help the budget and did the entire thing for free.
As a boy, Lee witnessed the last public execution by guillotine in France.
He met the two men responsible for finally killing Rasputin the Mad Monk (before they killed him). Lee would later go on to play the role of Rasputin in Rasputin: The Mad Monk.