Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Christopher Lee!

May 27 was the birthday of one of my favorite actors, Sir Christopher Lee. He turned 90 years old this year and is still going strong.

Lee's career has spanned decades, and he's starred in 275 films since 1946, making him the Guinness World Record holder for most film acting roles!

He's played everything from the monsters to Sherlock Holmes to Bond villain. He was of course Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and his Count Dooku, silly name aside, was one of the few highlights of the Star Wars prequels.

His most famous and iconic role is no doubt Hammer Studio's Count Dracula, which he played eight times. In Dracula: Prince of Darkness, he reportedly thought the dialogue was so bad that he refused to speak it on camera, instead spending the entire film hissing and glaring (to great effect, I might add).

Lee wanted to quit the Dracula films after the second one, but according to him the producers "emotionally blackmailed" him, telling him how many people would be put out of work if he didn't agree to star in the films. He would eventually relent and show up each time. His blackmailing was our gain, I suppose.

I can't think of any other actor who's played three of my all time favorite iconic movie monsters. If only he could have squeezed a werewolf and a gill man in there while he was with Hammer... (Note: I'm aware that he was in the werewolf film The Howling II, but that was far from an iconic role).

Lee is also a war hero, speaks eight different languages and is an accomplished singer. Geez, I feel productive if I do the dishes AND take out the trash all in the same day.

When Peter Jackson began filming The Hobbit this year, Lee desperately wanted to reprise his role of Saruman in the two films, but didn't think he could make the long and arduous flight to New Zealand at his age (as someone who spent 27 hours in a plane getting to China, I can sympathize). Peter Jackson apparently wanted him in the film just as badly, so he took a film crew to England and shot all of Lee's scenes there! Cool!

He's also the only Lord of the Rings cast member who actually met J.R.R. Toklein, was on Wing's Band On The Run album cover, and even hosted Saturday Night Live!

I'm worn out just reading his bio! And I haven't even mentioned that he's a British Knight, is descended from Italian nobility and has been married to a model since 1961. Here's to another 90 years!

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