Christopher Lee dies aged 93

LONDON: British actor Christopher Lee, who devoted his long career to portraying horror film villains and later appeared in the blockbuster Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series, has died at the age of 93.

Lee died on June 7 in hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for respiratory problems, British media reports said. Lee’s agent, in an emailed statement, said his family “wishes to make no comment”.

The London-born actor achieved fame from the late 1950s into the 1970s playing characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy for Hammer Films.

With his deep, mellifluous voice and ramrod six-foot four-inch 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.

Many leading directors sought out his talents, particularly in the latter stages of his career. He played the fiendish criminal genius Fu Manchu in five films, the villain Scaramanga in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and, in a rare departure from cinematic wickedness, gave life to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in a couple of films.

He won new generations of fans in some of the biggest money makers in film history. He played the evil Count Dooku, fighting Jedi knights in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Lee portrayed the power-hungry wizard Saruman in director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014).

As part of his late-career flourish, he also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) and Tim Burton’s black comedy Dark Shadows (2012) with Johnny Depp.

Lee was born on May 27, 1922 and took up acting on the suggestion of a cousin after serving in the Royal Air Force in World War II. He made his film debut in 1947, launching a career that eventually spanned more than 200 movies.

Lee was most closely associated with the role of Dracula, dispensing with the nobility Lugosi had given the role and adopting a more beastly, lustful bearing as he dispensed with various buxom victims.