Known and will be forever remembered as an icon of the film industry, the achievements of Sir Christopher Lee as an actor put him on a pedestal of Hollywood folklore.

He spent most of his adult life in a good number of notable movies playing such memorable characters as Count Dracula in Dracula, Kharis in The Mummy, Frankenstein in The Curse of Frankenstein, Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk, Count Dooku in Star Wars, and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Lee’s acting career was sprinkled with honors, and his military records were equally mindboggling.

He was once assigned to Special Operations Executive, otherwise known as Churchill’s Secret Army. 

The undisputed master of horrors died on June 7, 2015, at the age of 93, for respiratory problems and heart failure at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

The British actor had all the characteristics of an excellent movie star from his distinguished good looks, heavy, resounding Shakespearean voice, and unmistakable aristocratic presence.

Lee had more than 150 film credits from 1948 to 2018, including three posthumous releases and 60 television roles.

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10 /10 A Clerk For United States Line

Through birth and education, young Christopher Lee seemed to be a likely candidate for diplomatic leader. Lee’s father was Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a much-decorated lieutenant colonel in World War I.

His mother was Countess Estelle Marie, whose linage could be traced back to the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne.

Lee’s education at Wellington College in Berkshire came abruptly when he was 17 due to family financial problems.

Upon returning to London, he found employment as a clerk for the United States Line. The job didn’t pay a lot, but the money was enough to get him by.

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9 /10 From Clerk To Intelligent Officer

The beginning of World War II also was the turning point of Lee’s life.

During the war, he moved from one front to another, especially after being assigned as an intelligence officer with an RAF squadron in Italy and North Africa.

He was never allowed to fly as a pilot due to psychological trauma in training. As a civilian, Lee’s work as an actor required him to fly almost constantly in later life.

While most of them were probably first-class, the RAF flight lieutenant only passed as a passenger.

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8 /10 Special Operations Executive

Along the way between his job as a clerk and professional actor, Lee was attached in North Africa to the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group), the precursor of the SAS (Special Air Service).

For a time, he was also assigned to the SOE (Special Operations Executive), also known as the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” tasked to employ any means necessary to defeat Britain’s enemies. SOE was Churchill’s top-secret black ops unit filled with inventors, warriors, eccentrics, and rule-breakers. Lee’s service record remains classified today, which has led to some speculations about whether it was true.

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7 /10 Too Tall To Be An Actor

When his service in the military intelligence was no longer required, Lee was encouraged by a relative named Nicolò Carandini, then president of Alitalia Airline. Carandini referred Lee to Filippo del Giudice, the founder and head of Two Cities film production company.

At that time, Lee himself knew that he didn’t have much to offer to the industry except his baritone voice.

The referral from the influential relative unsurprisingly worked, and Rank Organization gave Lee a seven-year contract.

The executive who signed the deal, however, thought Lee was too tall to be an actor. He would be proven wrong.


6 /10 Authority Figure

Standing at 6’4″, Lee was a towering actor. He had an upright stature partly thanks to his fondness for playing in Pro-Am golf tournaments and a lofty temperament that also somehow made him taller than he already was.

Both his height and natural outlook helped him secure a lot of roles as an authority figure in films, for example as King James of Aragon in The Disputation, Ramses II in Moses, Duc de Richleau in The Devil Rides Out, Comte de Rochefort in The Three Musketeers, Grand Master of the Knights Templar in Ivanhoe, and so on.

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5 /10 Charm School

Less was supposed to spend six months of the year learning about method acting skills in Rank Organization’s The Company of Youth or “Charm School” as part of the contract.

Soon enough, he realized that theater did not suit him well. Once, he felt a terrible humiliation when the audience laughed at how he attempted to put his hand through a glass window.

The only good (or valuable) thing Lee learned from the Charm School was the swordplay. In his later acting years, Lee would fight in more screen duels than Douglas Fairbanks, and Errol Flynn combined.

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4 /10 Too Old To Be Gandalf

Once he was considered too tall as an actor, he proved otherwise. Lee bumped into a similar sentiment again in the auditioning for what was going to be one of his most famous film credits.

He auditioned for the role of Gandalf, but he didn’t get it. This time the sentiment came from himself. Lee thought he was already too old for the role, and he was right.

The amount of swordplay and horseback riding for Gandalf prevented Lee from being considered. The part was given to the 17-years younger Ian McKellen. Instead, Lee was Saruman.

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3 /10 Heavy Metal Fascination

During the early 1970s, Lee found himself adoring heavy metal from listening to Black Sabbath’s music.

Lee mentioned in 2013 that the band’s former guitarist Tony Iommi was the father of metal, to which Iommi replied it was Lee who had started it all because his roles as Dracula and other horror characters were influential to the music.

A long-standing fascination with heavy metal came to fruition late in his life.

In June 2010, Lee was the recipient of the Spirit of Hammer award. His BAFTA Fellowship award came months later, in February 2011.

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2 /10 The Magic Of The Wizard's Dream

One of Lee’s first accurate contributions to the heavy metal genre didn’t happen until 2005 when he provided the narration for The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream, a single by an Italian metal band Rhapsody of Fire. About two years later, Lee worked on his album, Revelation.

Rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires, founded by Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry, released a self-titled album featuring several seasoned musicians, including Paul McCartney, Brian Johnson, Robby Krieger, and Christopher Lee, among others.

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Lee was a guest vocalist in Track 1, “The Last Vampire,” marking his final contribution to music records.

1 /10 Charlemagne: By The Sword And The Cross

In 2010, Lee was credited additional personnel for Battle Hymns MMXI, an American heavy metal band, Manowar.

Again the actor provided a narration in one of the tracks, titled Dark Avenger. By the time of the collaboration, Lee had released an album in his own right, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, his first full-length album.

About three years later, Lee released Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, and even more majestic version than the previous album.

Lee’s life was complete; a black ops operative, master of horrors, an iconic actor, and a rock musician.

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