Christopher Lee – An Exceptional Man, An Extraordinaire Life

lee tribute slide - Christopher Lee - An Exceptional Man, An Extraordinaire Life

Christopher Lee – An Exceptional Man, An Extraordinaire Life

25-christopher_leeThe curtain has closed, as the casket sadly sealed on Dracula’s tomb for an eternal rest. The renowned, Sir Christopher Lee’s mortal clock has ended at the venerable age of ninety-three. His lively spirit flowed with radiant energy up until his last breath, leaving a remarkable impact to the world behind. His love for Acting and creating is what kept him going, despite any age or physical road block he bumped into along the way. The commitment and persistence that he had, will remain inspiring for many lifetimes to come. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “Though sympathy alone can’t alter facts, it can help to make them more bearable.” Lee’s legacy will last timelessly, filled with many facets on and off the screen, from Horror, to villainous, theatrical,vet, fatherly, caring, and Metal.

On the screen, Lee displayed that quality will always prevail over quantity, as he embraced in his theatrical art form. Off the screen, Lee found love and was married to his wife for over fifty years to Danish model, Birgit Kroencke. Kroencke was the one who withheld the news for four days from the public after his passing Sunday June 7th, to grieve with family and friends, including their daughter, Christina, intimately and privately.

Once a person reaches the age of thirty or thirty-five, they tend to give up their arduous dreams and settle for a simplistic lifestyle instead. They will sign a thirty or so year contract in their career which, would include a retirement plan and so forth. Lee has been nothing but inspirational to the simple fact that, age does not matter. He dabbled in everything that he could in his life, to the best to his ability. Not every single film he was in, including his near typecast roles with Hammer Horror films, were a huge success, nor were they his personal favorite, especially after being blackmailed to continue with the Dracula films. These were the films that brought him to a legendary status, and in the end he had nothing but gratitude, all being a part of his journey.

Christopher Lee as Dracula in Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Christopher Lee as Dracula in Dracula: Prince of Darkness

He did not get a chance to play Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, but, learned to love playing the villain of Saruman instead. Lee was lucky enough to be the only person in the entire production of The Lord of The Rings, to have met the notorious author, J.R.R Tolkien. He found a true friend in Tim Burton during the productions of films such as Dark Shadows (2012), Corpse Bride (2005), and Sleepy Hollow (1999). Lee astoundingly attained almost three-hundred credits between Film, Television, and video games including, the not yet released film, Angels in Notting Hill where ironically, his last role is known as “The Boss of the Universe.”

Christopher
Christoper Lee as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Lee’s determination is what led this plethora of credentials. During the beginning of his acting career, when he was in his mid-twenties, Lee was unrecognized in the background and even booked himself uncredited roles for over ten years. It was not until his mid-thirties when, in 1957, Lee played the Creature in the classic Horror film, The Curse of Frankenstein, directed by Terence Fisher, which jumpstarted his career into full gear. Giving up was never an option for Lee, he even traveled overseas to live in the United States in order to push the envelope and steer away from Horror films. His range sprawled across the spectrum in films such as Guy Hamilton’s The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (1979), John Landis’ The Stupids (1996), to his role as Count Dooku in George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). Lee’s devotion and genuine love for acting made him a one of a kind, proving to all that dreams do come true no matter what age. The dreamcatcher that he was made him an unforgettable and unique actor. Despite the characters he portrayed, he went deeper, emulating a sinister presence whether in a villainesque creature or even a comedic role.

Christopher Lee as Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Having over sixty years of productions, Lee also managed to divide his time to challenge himself even further with writing and music. He even wrote a few books including his Autobiography about his friendships with Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, along with tales of his childhood, and opening up about his war years in 1999’s, Christopher Lee, Tall, Dark and Gruesome. Those who have read the book call it an intriguing read from one of cinema’s most intriguing men.

L to R: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price in House of the Long Shadows
L to R: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price in House of the Long Shadows

Diving into writing a novel can be common at an older age, however, starting a Metal band in one’s eighties, hardly happens. There are several musicians out there who have given up on a band for reasons such as age, career, marriage, and children. Lee, who was a father, husband, and a hard-working man, managed to release four full-length albums and three EPs, mainly in the Symphonic and Heavy Metal genre. He once said,“I associate Heavy Metal with fantasy because of the tremendous power that the music delivers.” At the age of eighty-eight, his third album, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross (2010), was released and was praised in the Metal community. This album brought him to win the Spirit of Metal Award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony. His Metal praise did not end there. At the age of ninety-one, he released Charlemagne: The Omens of Death and the acclaimed EP, A Heavy Metal Christmas Too (2013), which his single “Jingle Hell” hit number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. His last release was in 2014, EP Metal Knight, and most likely, he would have recorded a fifth album if he could.

Charlemagne Productions Ltd.
Charlemagne Productions Ltd.
Charlemagne Productions Ltd.
Charlemagne Productions Ltd.

Above all, Lee managed to find true love during his ambitious career. Hollywood romance has been stereotyped as short lived, however, it was death that made them sadly part. He once said, “The secret to a long marriage in the film industry? Marry someone wonderful, as I did, and always have her come along on location.” His influence continues where he has proven that love does exist to the point that a couple can support each other’s dreams, and are able to run after them, together. Until his very last breath, he had enlightened all that it is never too late to follow one’s passion. His charismatic wisdom will remain eternal as though he will always welcome the next Dracula to raise the curtain, reminding all are able to fulfill their own destiny.

66th Locarno Film Festival August 7, 2013 in Locarno, Switzerland.
66th Locarno Film Festival August 7, 2013 in Locarno, Switzerland.

Lee’s epic career in entertainment touched many over the past six plus decades. Below are the thought of actors and musicians who hold the legend in high regard:

Mr. Lee was one of a kind. He had integrity, loyalty, and talent. He was a war hero and a gentleman. A rare bird indeed.” – Rutanya Alda, actress (The Deer Hunter 1978, Amityville II: The Possession 1982) 

“Christopher Lee holds a special place in my Horror movie heart. Since I was little, my dad and I would watch Horror movies together. He is the one who introduced me to the wonderful world of B-Movies. 1971’s The House that Dripped Blood is one of my favorites. It is cheesy, but was probably pretty frightening at the time it was released. Christopher Lee will be greatly missed. May the Horror movie master continue to slay in the after-life!”   – KT Paige, Romantic Rebel vocalist 

“I met Sir Christopher Lee in Trieste in 2009 during Science+Fiction festival. Since I was a guest of the festival, I was allowed to meet him in private, although, to be honest, I was just a regular fanboy who would wait in line to get his signature. The moment I met him I felt like I was meeting a real life wizard of pure charisma and mesmerizing, deep, but gentle, voice. Although I spent 10 or 15 mins with him, I believe I had a true master class only for me. The man with a golden voice left a great impression and I was hypnotized by his presence.”   Milan Todorovic, director/producer (Zone of the Dead 2009, Nymph 2014

An Icon of Icons, he will be missed. Thank God for film, we will be able to enjoy his talents forever.”   – Beverly Randolph, actress (Return of the Living Dead 1985

“I loved Christopher Lee! The Hammer films took the Horror genre to another level and Christopher Lee was a huge part of that. I thought his Dracula was pretty creepy and very English (his height had a lot to do with that). The films that He and Peter Cushing did were so great, a creature feature spectacular! I always thought he played Evil really well, he did it like no other. A true actor, his presence will be missed.” Charlie Benante, Anthrax drummer 

“The most iconic Dracula ever. I grew up with all his Hammer Horror films, he was my youth.”   – Lesleh Donaldson, actress (Funeral Home 1980, Happy Birthday to Me 1981)

I will always remember Christopher Lee for those incredible eyes that could turn you to stone or make you squirm, even from the small screen.  By far my favorite of his many great performances is in the 1973 classic version of The Wicker Man – a wonderfully atmospheric film and a towering performance by Lee.”   – Peter Ulrich, ex-Dead Can Dance, currently The Peter Ulrich Collaboration multi-instrumentalist 

Scary beyond scary that can never be matched. Very few actors can claim a legacy like Christopher Lee. Those eyes, that voice. He never died. He is very alive and undead in your eyes and minds.”  –  J. Dracman, Darkc3ll vocalist

 “He was a true legend and an icon and my favorite Dracula.”  – Scott Ian, Anthrax guitarist 

Death comes at us in every direction, at any given time, but it always hits you differently when it is a legend. Christopher Lee was just that. One of the forefathers of Horror cinema, and a true innovator in the genre. Stemming from his early work in films like Count Dracula and The Wicker Man, to more modern classics, The Lord of the Rings and Sleepy Hollow (1999). He always had such a sinister presence, and commanded your attention, even in the smallest of roles. An epic career spanning over 60 years. We truly lost one of the greats. RIP Sir Christopher Lee.– Dustin Boltjes, Skeletonwitch drummer 

“It is with heavy hearts we must say goodbye to Sir Christopher Lee, a vampire, a wizard, and sith lord. He portrayed some of the most influential Villains of our time and taught us how to be pure bad asses and never stop releasing Metal albums until the end of our days. You lived one hell of a life, and you will be sorely missed.” – Garrett Russell, From Ashes to New bassist 

“His linage is amazing. Everything from The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) to Dracula to The Lord of The Rings. He spanned generations. He was the king of Horror, but he had a class to him. He fit every part and he was so believable. Every role he did he was perfect. He was everything I watched growing up. What an actor. He is one of the all-time greatest.” – Paul Nelson, Johnny Winter’s Band Grammy winning guitarist 

“When I interviewed Christopher for MTV back in 1995 he was a pleasure to talk to, and I must say very handsome as well as gracious.”  – Linnea Quigley, actress (Return of the Living Dead 1985)

“Christopher Lee was a multi-talented inspiring person and he was playing so many different roles that will remain in our memories forever. Catalyst and visage of so many different characters of movies that will stay in history. Besides, like if it was not enough, he was also a passionate of heavy metal music. He will be missed alot as well as so many other legends of our times of which we will hardly find a replacement.” – Victor D’Amore, Dope Stars Inc vocalist 

“When people think of Sir Christopher Lee they usually think about Count Dooku from Star Wars, and Saruman from The Lord of the Rings series, and all the modern stuff he did, but to me he will always be Dracula from the Hammer Horror films! He and Peter Cushing did some really great stuff that a lot of these young cats don’t know anything about and that’s a shame. They need to educate themselves on the greats and Sir Christopher Lee is definitely one of them. RIP Christopher Lee” – Jamie Madrox of Twiztid

“My mask prior to the one I use now was from a head cast of Christopher Lee. Altered to fit my much shorter face. Christopher Lee was an amazing actor and he is one of the Godfathers of the Horror genre. R.I.P. and thank you.” – Jeffrey Nothing, Mushroomhead vocalist

“Mr. Lee brought such brilliant sincerity and authenticity to his roles. I will continue to celebrate his life through Dooku and Saruman, two favorites on the tour bus!” – Jonny Hetherington, Art of Dying vocalist 

“Cutting Metal records in his 90’s, Christopher Lee was nothing short of legendary. He was obviously a very talented man that touched many people, and let’s be honest; Christopher Lee was definitely the most bad ass wizard to walk middle earth.” – Billy Lov, Ascendia drummer

I definitely discovered the breath of Christopher Lee’s filmography retroactively. At the turn of the century, I was in awe at how he kept turning up as the go to villain in various Hollywood tentpoles. With such a singular presence never lacking in gravitas and a lifetime of acting behind him it was beautiful to see him become cinema’s “it-guy” baddie as an octogenarian. A few IMDB searches later and I realized he was the man in nearly EVERY movie trailer prior to the Horror/Fantasy/Science Fiction rentals Etienne, Chris, our cousin Ricky and I would watch together as kids. As a child you do not really pay attention to how someone’s work even on a small scale can reach you or the memories it will forget. – Brandon Cruz , So Hideous guitarist 

He had such a strong presence, and was so good at his craft, you couldn’t help but be drawn in, whether he was Dracula or battling  Hobbits. Great memories watching his scary movies as a kid, and later, was also an inspiration for the U.P.O. song “Murder @ The Movies”!”  – Shawn Albro, U.P.O./ Hopes Funeral vocalist

“With the passing of Christopher Lee we have lost one of the last true greats of horror cinema, the roles he helped bring to life will be with us eternally” – Ben V, Ludovico Technique vocalist 

Christopher Lee was an inspiration to me and so many others. He was, without a doubt, a master of his craft and a true legend. He lived the life of 10,000 men and his legacy will continue to live on forever in his amazing and vast body of work. I only wish I could have done a Metal album with him! You will be missed Sir.”  – Joe Bennett, World Gone guitarist 

The Bloodline was saddened to hear the news of the legendary Christopher Lee’s passing. The entertainment world has definitely lost a true talent. Awesome that such an iconic man in film was a huge supporter of Heavy Metal music as well. May your soul rise and be recognized by the pioneer’s that have passed before you. Horns high Mr. Lee!” – Travis Neal, The Bloodline vocalist 

“Sometimes I play one of those Guitar Hero/Rock Band type games with friends and tend to have a reasonably good time. But the times are even better in my mind when I think about the fact that I am an actual guitarist in an actual band that plays actual shows, which provides a nice false sense of superiority over my co-players. Now take that avatar/real life dynamic, magnify it to astronomically badass levels and you’ll start to understand the brilliant life of Sir Christopher Lee. Among his many legendary roles as an actor, he had played a Bond villain. Little known though that in his younger years, he had been an actual British secret agent who hunted Nazis in WWII. That’s right – he was a Bond villain and an actual James Bond. And he released a Symphonic Metal album in his 80’s. Though I have released a few Metal albums, I’m not sure how many more lifetimes it would take for me to be a secret agent, play Dracula, and beat Obi-Wan Kenobi in a lightsaber duel. Lucky for all of us, that trail has been gloriously blazed. RIP Sir Christopher Lee.”  Chirag Bhatt, Gyre guitarist 

“I grew up reading books like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Christopher Lee was the most epic Saruman I could ever hope for. Knowing he was a huge lover of Metal music and even released his own metal CD made him that much cooler. Thank you sir for all the inspiration your life has given to so many if us. You will be missed. “ – September of September Mourning

“As a lifelong fan of Saruman (the character) I couldn’t have been more thrilled when Christopher Lee was cast. He WAS Saruman. Brought the tragic character perfectly to life. The Wicker Man was another favorite film of mine, and Lee’s portrayal of the charismatic leader of the island was another masterpiece.  To see him later in life putting out Metal albums was another treat! ninety-three years is an amazing amount of time to be on this planet, and he gave his all until the moment he died.” – Jason Charles Miller, Godhead vocalist / Country Rock

Christopher Lee is, was, and will always be a total bad ass. From Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings, the dude will forever be a legend and an icon. R.I.P.” – Noah Shark Robertson, Motograter drummer 

Christopher Lee was a brilliant actor, totally convincing in any roll. My favorite was probably his role in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). What a great voice and presence, he will be missed.– Josh Brown, Full Devil Jacket vocalist 

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Zenae Zukowski
Zenae Zukowski
zenaefilms@gmail.com

Zenae has been working in the Entertainment industry since she graduated The School of Visual Arts in 2006 with a BFA in Film. Managing to keep herself busy and glued to the city that never sleeps in NYC with the multiple media facets such as Advertising, Film, Broadcast, and Music, the scene has led her to be a well-rounded content creator focusing in writing, photography, and post production. Taking the industry a step further as a travel enthusiast, she would one day love to afford to fly out to several Music and Film festivals. When she is not working or at a Metal show, she spends her free time with her fur-babies.

1Comment
  • Tom Liguori
    Posted at 19:50h, 25 June Reply

    Great article! He was and always will be a true icon!

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