Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

Christopher Lee died last Sunday at the age of 93. He did extensive work for Royal Air Force Intelligence in World War II, helped track down Nazi war criminals at the end of the war, and then got into acting. It was a tough market, so he mostly only got bit parts until he broke through in Hammer horror films. He became most famous for playing Dracula, although he often did not like it. He was the first choice of Ian Fleming (to whom he was related) for playing Dr. No, but didn't get that part; he did, however, get to play a Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun. He was getting tired of only being offered horror roles, however, so he decamped for America in 1977.

He is most famous recently, of course, for playing Saruman. Apparently he was a Tolkien fan; he was the only person in the production of the Lord of the Rings movies to have ever met Tolkien personally, and he claimed that he read The Lord of the Rings every year. He had wanted to play Gandalf, but, alas, his age was a problem, and so he took the role of Saruman, which involved less action and horseback-riding. But he was often like that; he voiced King Haggard in the animated version of The Last Unicorn and apparently showed up on the first day with the book in hand, having underlined all the speaking parts of King Haggard that he was going to insist should make it into the movie.

He also had a reasonably successful heavy metal music career late in life. The following, I think, captures some of his best work in this regard:

Rhapsody of Fire, with Christopher Lee, "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream",

Angels are calling
From divine lost crystal realms,
Riding from heaven
For the magic of the wizard's dream.

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