Christopher Lee, evil count of cinema, dies at age 93

Thu Jun 11, 2015 3:58pm EDT
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By Will Dunham and Michael Roddy

(Reuters) - British master of the macabre Christopher Lee, who portrayed Dracula in outrageous horror classics but became known to later generations for roles in "Star Wars" and as the wizard Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings," has died at age 93.

Lee died on Sunday in a London hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment for respiratory problems, according to his death certificate.

The London native achieved fame from the late 1950s into the 1970s playing characters including Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy for Hammer Films, and later in his career made memorable appearances in a series of blockbuster movies.

With his deep, mellifluous voice and ramrod 6-foot 4-inch (1.93-metre) frame, Lee was the last English-language horror movie star in a line that traced back to silent era luminary Lon Chaney and included Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, Lee's regular Hammer Films co-star.

Lee brought to his monsters a sense of pitifulness that he called "the loneliness of evil." Despite being a master of the horror genre, Lee did not even like the word.

"It implies something nauseating, revolting, disgusting - which one sees too often these days. I prefer the word 'fantasy,'" he told the New York Times in 2002.

Many leading directors sought out Lee's talents, especially in the latter stages of his career when he was already elderly.

Celebrities and politicians took to Twitter to hail Lee.   Continued...

British actor Christopher Lee, who played the part of Bond bad guy Scaramanga in the film "The Man with the Golden Gun", poses for pictures with the original gun from the James Bond film at the Science Museum in London, in this file photograph dated October 15, 2002. REUTERS/Russell Boyce/files