Another one of the greats has left us. Sir Christopher Lee passed away on Sunday morning, with the news only breaking today as they wanted to ensure that family and close friends were informed first.
Lee is an actor who, at 93 years old, must have had an impact on pretty much every generation of film viewer today, with him being fondly remembered for a variety of roles.
For myself, I first discovered his work through roles such as Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun, or as Rochefort in the Musketeer films, along with his iconic turns in the Hammer Horror films (I was quite a young viewer of Hammer films on TV, lapping up the theatrics and dread). Films such as Wickerman came to my attention at a much later time, which meant there was a body of work that I could explore more of as I got older.
Never an actor to take himself too seriously, his appearances in films such as Spielberg’s (unfairly) maligned comedy 1941, or as a mad professor in Gremlins 2, showed a degree of humour he possessed (although the less said about Police Academy: Mission to Moscow the better). Even in interviews he had a gentle wit, such as when he was quoted as saying, “Somebody once asked me how I found Peter Jackson, and I said: ‘Well, I parted his hair, and there he was.'”
In more recent times he has found a new audience through roles in the Star Wars prequels, Lord of the Rings, and varied Tim Burton films, and even when those films haven’t quite been as good as you would hope, there was no denying that Lee stood out and made his scenes engross and entice you. As he said himself, “Every actor has to make terrible films from time to time, but the trick is never to be terrible in them.”
All of that iconic work, and without mentioning the same gravitas he brought to TV roles in dramas such as Gormenghast, or voice roles such as the Discworld series (animations Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music, and live action Colour of Magic) as the voice of Death.
Rest in peace – as the great man himself once said, “To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead or excessively old!” Well, he got to life to a fantastic age, and his legacy of work will ensure that he will live on forever.