Despite his versatility as a performer Lee is particularly associated with the horror genre, in part because he first established his name in films for the Hammer studio. He had been seen in supporting roles of various sizes in British films since the 1940s, Hamlet (1948) and Scott of the Antarctic (1948) among them before playing the creature in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and the title role in Dracula (1958).
His impact in horror movies was recognised explicitly in the title of his 1997 autobiography Tall, Dark & Gruesome, though in truth Lee wrestled with fears of being typecast.
His prodigious industry put him among the leading actors with the longest list of screen credits, with well over 200 to his name. They include films such as The Mummy (1959), She (1965), Rasputin The Mad Monk (1965), The Devil Rides Out (1967) and Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968).
His reputation assured by the 1970s, he burnished it further with roles in The Wicker Man (1973), The Three Musketeers (1973) and as Scaramanga to Roger Moore’s James Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun (1975). Lee often said the performance of which he was most proud was that of Jinnah (1998), the story of the revered founder of Pakistan.
By this time though a new generation of filmmakers who had grown up enjoying Lee’s work began to seek him out for their films. Tim Burton cast him in Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005); George Lucas invited him to play Count Dooku in his Star Wars Episodes II (2002) and III (2005); while Peter Jackson cast him as Saruman in his Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03), a role he reprised in The Hobbit films (2012-13). He also featured in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret (2011).
I am deeply saddened by the death of Sir Christopher Lee, a truly talented and versatile actor.
His biography, and therefore his legacy, is one that many in the film industry can only dream of. He appeared in over 200 films, including some of the most iconic of our times.
Throughout his career, which stretched from the 1940s to date, there were so many outstanding performances - in Dracula, The Wicker Man, The Man with the Golden Gun, to name just a few of his many credits, and more recently, the BAFTA and Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Sir Christopher received the Academy Fellowship, the highest honour BAFTA can bestow, at the Film Awards in 2011; at the time he described it as a very unexpected but very great honour.
Amanda Berry OBE
British Academy of Film and Television Arts