Sir Christopher Lee was a legend, a master of his many crafts, and a true gentlemen. The man was not only an actor, a heavy metal vocalist in which he made an album about Charlemagne (to whom he was related to), and a humanitarian – but he also served in WWII as an intelligence officer and was later promoted to Special Operations Executive.
Sir Christopher Lee is well known for being a guy you wouldn’t want to come across in war, even telling Peter Jackson at one point during the shooting of his death scene as Sarumon that he didn’t need direction to know what a man being stabbed in the back sounded like; he had witnessed it enough to know. Besides the many other brilliant aspects of the man, we take a look back at some of his most iconic works within film and television.
Count Dooku may seem like the weakest Sith and didn’t even go by his sith name Darth Tyranus, but this role proved to become much more than we saw from Lee in the main Star Wars films. Lee provided his voice for Dooku in the animated film, The Clone Wars, that spawned the show of the same name, but Corey Burton replaced Lee for the animated series. The show provided much more back story to Dooku and made him a much more formidable villain than what Lee got to portray, sadly. Still, he was by far the scariest human looking being in Star Wars and was a terrifying villain to a whole new generation of Star Wars fans and his face and talent was very welcome in the prequels most people dislike, but he also is one of very few Jedis or Siths to have a genuinely unique looking lightsaber that can easily be identified just by the handle.
The wise white wizard Sarumon turned powerful ally to the evil Sauron is one of Christopher Lee’s most memorable roles, especially from recent years. We not only got to see him portray the character of Saurmon in all three LOTR movies (albeit his scenes from Return of the King were only in the extended version), but we were even lucky enough to see him play the role a couple more times in the recent Hobbit film trilogy. This role was always one of my favorites; it was spectacular seeing Christopher Lee as part of this world and now it seems as if there never was or will be another Sarumon. Ultimately, this role was monumental in me getting back into reading books, and especially made me fall in love with fantasy novels even more, which just so happened to introduce me to Discworld novels by Terry Prachett, which brings me to his next role of…
Christopher Lee was the only person imaginable with the voice fitting enough to portray Terry Pratchett’s Death, and he did so in a short animated film which led to the production of two animated Discworld films, Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music. Then, he reprised the role in the live action film, The Color of Magic, which covered the first two Discworld books (the one of the same title and The Light Fantastic). This role was probably my favorite of Lee’s as Terry Pratchett’s Death is probably my favorite character in all of literature, One of my favorite things about the character is that he speaks in all capital letters. This makes total sense why they would cast Lee for the role; there are only two beings who can speak in all caps and one of them portrayed the other in Discworld films.
Not only is it cool enough that Christopher Lee was the step-cousin of Ian Fleming, but he once was one Flemings first choices to be Bond. But we all know he never got that role, but he did get the role of one of Bond’s most iconic villains in the film The Man With the Golden Gun, Francisco Scaramanga. This film was not seen as one of the best Bond film’s as it added a bit of comedic twist to it, but no one has ever denied Christopher Lee’s performance is what made this Bond film. His role in this sticks with me a lot as the Golden Gun was always so iconic and I even tried coloring a gun gold with a sharpie as a kid… all that I ended up with was gold hands… But we all remember trying to find the golden gun in Goldeneye 64 to completely destroy the competition right?
Tim Burton roles
It is a bit difficult to choose one of the many roles Christopher Lee played within Tim Burton’s catalogue, and he is known to be very proud of them all, so I thought I would count them as one role. Theses roles, and the fact Lee was so proud of them is another big reason I had such respect for this man. I love Tim Burton, but the people and the settings of his movies are what made them have that great Burtonesque feel to them. Christopher Lee had six roles within Tim Burton’s films and, each time, he commanded the scene and showed us he has a permanent place in Burton’s psyche. Burton’s adaptations of two of my favorite books of all time, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, hold a special place in my heart, so Lee’s involvement marked a memorable time in cinematic history for me. Lee has portrayed: Burgomaster in Sleepy Hollow, Dr. Wilbur Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pastor Galswell in Corpse Bride, the Jabberwocky in Alice in Wonderland, Clarney in Dark Shadows, and Burton even added archive footage of him as Dracula into Frankenweenie, which leads me to…
One of Christopher Lee’s most iconic roles to the masses was as Dracula; he played the role ten different times throughout his run as the classic monster. Christopher Lee is thought to be the man who made Dracula, or at least made him darker and a much more interesting character. The most interesting thing about this role to me is Lee got tired of these stories and scripts as they dwindled creatively over the years, so at one point, Christopher Lee retired the character. The studio convinced him to come back as they guilt-tripped him into thinking tons of people would loose their jobs if he didn’t star in the film and bring in revenue. So Lee abided them and came back to film, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, where it is said Lee thought the lines of Dracula’s were so terribly-written that he decided to play the character silent in that film with just minor groans, hisses and screams. After this film, he continued to play the role for five more strictly Dracula films. Previously, he also has played The Mummy in the 1959 film The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1957 film, The Curse of Frankenstein, which likely got him the role of Dracula and cemented a horror film relationship between Lee and the famous Frankenstein film actor Peter Cushing.
Although Lee only portrayed the monster in one of Peter Cushing’s seven Frankenstein films, he still is as legendary to the role to me as Boris Karloff. Lee’s monster role looked and felt a bit darker than the original, much like his Dracula, and although it seems tame by our standards now, this film was one of the first to show red blood on screen, as well as gore and violence, which made for a huge impact for the screen and advancement of storytelling in film. This role was great to me because he made the monster a monster and even if you had sympathy for him in this role – as you should with every Frankenstein’s monster – you knew you would much rather prefer hanging out with Karloff’s Monster than Lee’s based off looks alone.
Diz/Ansem the Wise
Christopher Lee also provided his voice to a couple video games through the years but none were as important or as influential to myself than his role of Diz/Ansem in Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. This character was extremely important to the story and was a welcome ally in a war we thought we were waging against Ansem in the first place (See Kingdom Hearts 1). These games were what made me a modern gamer, and are arguably my favorite video games since this new millennium started. No one knew Disney and Final Fantasy would meld so well, let alone the added characters like Lee’s Diz/Ansem. Plus, any cartoon/video game that has his voice instantly becomes ten times better when you hear it.
Here is another great villain made by Christopher Lee and one that is insanely iconic to me as a child. I remember watching The Last Unicorn many times as a kid and always being enthralled in that crazy and almost like a drug trip sort of world at times. But King Haggard was the main antagonist of the story and is the reason why our main character, the Unicorn, is the last one of her species since he kidnapped the rest. As a kid, this movie was one of my favorites. My first toy, sadly lost and forgotten a long time ago, was a unicorn puppet, so identified with this movie most my life and despite being iconic, for those who don’t know it I might as well say I love the straight to dvd Barbie movies. The film is very good and very much a legend among my films, whether it be the amazing cast which also included Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, and Angela Lansbury, or the classic hand drawn animation. This role was one of my favorites of his, even if I wanted to punch him in the face.
This role from the film Gormenghast is relatively unknown to most and is not one many people would consider his best, but this role meant a lot to me.
As a kid, I grew up around the Gormenghast books since my mother was a huge fan and despite not reading the books yet (for shame me…) I still hold the fact that Lee even participated in this as a huge factor to why I love him so much. But it is not hard to realize why he did; Lee was the only person involved in this production that actually knew Mervyn Peake, the author of the Gormenghast series and actually met with him over coffee many times. Lee not only executed his role spectacularly but knew the world and characters almost as much as he did Middle Earth (he read LOTR once or more every year). Although the live-action series only covered the first two books in a series of five, it still is the best we have ever gotten for a Gormenghast film and it may be that way for a while. But take comfort in knowing Lee did a spectacular job as his character of Mr. Flay and that this mini series happened at all. I only wish all the books could have been adapted so we had yet another epic Christopher Lee series of films.
Well those are my favorite roles of Christopher Lee’s. Many are very personal to me. The man was a master of all crafts. If these 10 roles were not enough for you, as of 2007, he held the world record for the most credits in films, not to mention the record for tallest leading actor. If you even wanted more Christopher Lee, please go check out his heavy metal albums, a Christmas album, and his Man of La Mancha song done in heavy metal — just like the man himself those albums are one of a kind.