There are few faces or voices as instantly recognizable as that of 91-year-old British actor Christopher Lee. With amazing film credits such as the Star Wars villain Count Dooku, and Lord of the Rings baddie Sarumon, Lee has appeared in over 200 films which have grossed some of the highest amounts in Hollywood history. That said it's the unusual happenstance and bizarre coincidences of Lee's life that make the man more interesting than any of the characters he's portrayed. For instance:
He Was in The S.A.S.
Graduated top in his class from the School of Ungentlemanly Warfare
Like many men of his age, Christopher Lee fought in the second World War. While he ostensibly joined and served in the British Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, he was actually a serving member of the newly minted Special Air Services. The newly formed special forces had a single purpose; winning the war. This meant sneaking behind enemy lines, destroying supplies, sabotaging trains and vehicles, destroying weapons and property; in short, doing anything it took to make sure the Nazi war machine ground to a stuttering halt. Still regarded as one of the deadliest special forces in the world today, Lee served from 1941-1946. This stint in the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare gained Lee a lot of unusual experiences that he brought to his performances on screen. This includes everything from his very physical work as the Mummy in one of Hammer's early movies, to knowing just what it sounds like when a man is stabbed in the back for his portrayal of the wizard Sarumon.
He Knew People More Famous Than Himself
Like his favorite book buddy here...
No one starts out at the top of the game, excluding people who happen to join multi-generational cults or secret societies. However, thanks to the same accidents of birth that made Christopher Lee nearly six-and-a-half feet tall in the days before color film he was on a first name basis with a variety of legendary names. As a quick for instance people listen when Lee talks about Lord of the Rings not just because he's a huge fan and kind of a nerd, but because he's the only member of the cast who ever met and talked with J.R.R. Tolkein without the aid of a seance.
That's just a single example. Lee was also distantly related to, and played golf with, James Bond author Ian Fleming (whose own impressive list of true facts is located right here). Fleming served in naval intelligence during the second World War, giving he and his distant cousin one more thing to bond over (no pun intended). Lee and his wife also became friends with Boris Karloff, not through the movies, but because they happened to live next door to one another on a pure fluke. The list gets longer, but when a man likes to work as much as Christopher Lee does he tends to get around.
He Has a Mind of Metal
What sort of tunes would a British gentleman relax with at the end of the day? Perhaps something classical, from an era when composers drove orchestras to the brink of madness to create true beauty? Brink of madness yes, classical not so much. One of Lee's most favorite bands is the symphonic metal group Rhapsody, and he has not been shy about endorsing them. He's even sung duets with the band in a variety of different languages. Lee's voice is good for more than making apocalyptic pronouncements, as he's recorded tunes varying from songs by Lord of the Rings character Treebeard to appearances in songs by the American metal group Manowar. One is never too old to appreciate slamming guitars and mythical lyrics, especially if you have the sort of pedigree that Sir Christopher Lee does.
He Would Destroy You in a Sword Fight
And All Your Friends as Well
While his time in the trenches made him deadly with traditional and non-traditional firearms and knife fighting, Christopher Lee has also mastered fencing and swordplay. Lee has had more on-screen sword fights than any other actor, and he was even injured while fighting famous film swashbuckler Errol Flynn (Flynn was drunk when the incident happened, which is much like saying Flynn was breathing at the time). It wasn't until his fight scenes as Count Dooku in the Star Wars franchise that Lee used a double for fight scenes, heaving a sigh when he realized that it was a young man's game. It took more decades than most people have on this Earth to pry a blade out of his hands, and that is something to be proud of.
Set the Villain Standard
Perhaps most famous for his portrayal of Count Dracula in Hammer horror films, Lee was built to play intimidating villains. With his grand stature and his piercing gaze, he tended to be too imposing as a supporting actor, and much too much of a presence as a leading man. This led him to take on all sorts of creature features, ranging from the infamous vampire count to the Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, Fu Manchu and the man with the golden gun before finally moving on to more fantastic villains such as the afore-mentioned Sith Lord and evil wizard. However, Lee has turned down some roles that he wishes he hadn't. Most notably he was offered a chance to be in Halloween, and he didn't accept.
He's Descended From Nobility
On Both Sides of His Family
Christopher Lee is nobility. Though he was knighted by England in the year 2009, he has been Italian nobility on his mother's side since birth. Beyond the immediate past though Lee's family traces its lineage back to King Charlemagne, and there are parts of that ancient ruler's crest that still appears in his descendants' coat of arms.
In addition to his heritage, Lee also speaks English, German, Italian and a half dozen languages fluently. He can "get by" as he says in Russian and a handful of others that he hasn't mastered. Yet, at least.