Happy 90th Birthday Sir Christopher Lee!

Cinematic giant Sir Christopher Lee is 90 years old today!

I grew up on Hammer Horror Dracula films and I’ve been interested in everything Christopher Lee has done ever since. I’m glad he’s still around – and working too!
He puts most of us to shame really.

My friend Francisco has a Christopher Lee story of sorts. Y’see, Francis once found himself crossing the street alongside Christopher Lee in London.
Take it away Francisco!

I don’t think it makes much of a story Al.Ā 

I lived in Earl’s Court at the time and was probably making my way by a circuitous route to Holland Park, where I liked to go for a walk almost daily. I had reached Kensington High Street and was waiting to cross the road by some traffic lights when I suddenly became aware of an indescribably tall, immaculately dressed presence to my right-hand side. I don’t know how he got there. On turning as subtly as I was able my first and inward reaction was ‘Fuck me! It’s Dracula.’ Thereafter I saw a superbly tailored, impeccably coiffed English gentleman with, I think, a walking cane which seemed purely decorative, though this item may have been added by my imagination at a later time. We crossed the road and I think he may have walked the more slowly, or else my initial inward reaction had taken hold once more and I was fleeing.”

Courtesy of the IMDB, here is some surprising Christopher Lee trivia:

* Born: Christopher Frank Carandini Lee.

* Turned down Donald Pleasence’s role in Halloween (1978). (He later remarked that this was his biggest mistake.)

* Classically trained singer.

* A distant cousin and frequent golfing partner of Bond creator Ian Fleming, Lee was the author’s personal pick for the role of Dr. No (1962) in the first 007 film. The part, of course, went to actor Joseph Wiseman, who was brilliant. However, fans of the literary Bond might want to check out Lee’s portrayal of Chinese master criminal Fu Manchu, for an idea of how Ian Fleming himself envisioned Dr. No.

* Is listed as the Center of the Hollywood Universe by the Oracle of Kevin Bacon website at the University of Virginia, because he can be linked to any one in Hollywood on average in 2.59 steps. That is less than either Charlton Heston or Kevin Bacon himself.

* In a radio interview in South Africa, Lee claimed that he held the record for number of film roles by an actor. [2001]

* Appears on the album cover “Band on the Run”, performed by Paul McCartney’s band ‘Wings’.

* Served in the British Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve from 1941 to 1946. During that time, he was an active member of the Special Forces.

* He is fluent in German.

* A stunt double performed the stunts and lightsaber fights in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002). Lee’s face was imposed on the double’s body. Lee mentioned that in the last 40 years, he has done more swordfights than any other actor, but “not anymore”.

* Speaks very good French, good enough to understand questions and give long replies in a press conference.

* His stepfather (his mother’s second husband) was the maternal uncle of writer Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame). Lee and Fleming are therefore step-cousins.

* Was originally offered the role of Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). He turned it down and the role eventually went to his good friend Peter Cushing.

* At 6 feet 5 inches, he is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Tallest Leading Actor”.

* He struggled to get work early in his career as a supporting actor because almost all the male stars were shorter than he.

* Was upset about the deletion of his death scene in the theatrical version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). However, the scene was put back into the Extended Edition which is seen as the definitive version.

* One of the most prolific actors of all time, he has acted in nearly 230 films, although he later admitted that his film work was not always chosen on quality but often on whether they could support his family. His peak years of productivity were 1955 and 1970, as Lee starred in nine films in both years.

* One of his favorite bands is the Italian symphonic power metal band Rhapsody, and he has also appeared on one of their album (listen to the speech in the intro on the song “Unholy Warcry” on the album “The Dark Secret”). Lee also appears on the Rhapsody single “The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream”, where he does a duet with Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Leoni in English, German, Italian and French versions of the song.

* Wanted to attend the Heavy Metal Festival Earthshaker Fest in 2005 to support his favorite bands, the Italian band “Rhapsody” and the American band Manowar, but had to cancel at the last moment because of an important filming appointment. He recorded a message to the fans in advance, which was shown right before “Rhapsody” appeared on-stage.

* According to his friend Norman Lloyd, he has a somewhat eccentric hobby: he is fascinated by public executioners and knows the names of every official executioner England has had since the middle of the 15th century.

* In Dracula (1958), Lee in the title role had to drop a woman into a grave, but when he carried her, she was unexpectedly heavy and in trying to drop her into the grave, Lee also fell in with her.

* Released the music album “Christopher Lee: Revelation” in the United Kingdom in October 2006. It includes songs like “The Toreador March”, “O Sole Mio”, “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'” and “My Way”.

* His favourite director is Tim Burton.

So it’s Happy Birthday to Sir Christopher Lee!
Still going strong at 90!

You May Also Be Interested In:
* Dracula And The Necropolis At Night
* Al Cook’s “Necropolis”
* Alice In Wonderland: Tim Burton’s Illustrations

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