Christopher Lee dies: Legendary actor passes away aged 93
Legendary actor Christopher Lee, for millions of movie fans the face of Dracula and Tolkien's Saruman - has died at the age of 93.
The star, who appeared in a string of horror films and played a Bond villain in The Man With The Golden Gun, enjoyed a career renaissance playing Saruman in the Lord Of The Rings films.
He never stopped working and only last year marked his 92nd birthday by releasing a heavy metal version of the Frank Sinatra classic My Way.
It was one of seven tracks on an album called Metal Knight he recorded with an Italian band called Rhapsody Of Fire.
Two years ago he was honoured with a fellowship of the British Film Institute presented by his friend Johnny Depp.
Depp, who has worked with Sir Christopher on several Tim Burton projects including Sleepy Hollow, sneaked into the awards ceremony to surprise his friend.
Sir Christopher has amassed more than 250 screen credits, including his vampire appearances, his role as sinister Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, and his collaborations with Burton.
He has often said that his title role in Jinnah, about the founder of Pakistan, is one of his favourite portrayals.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea confirmed that a death certificate had been issued for the star, who died on Sunday at a local hospital.
His Lord Of The Rings co-star Dominic Monaghan paid tribute, saying: " So, so sorry to hear that Christopher Lee has passed away. He was a fascinating person. Threw a Bic pen into a tree in front of me."
Actor Reece Shearsmith said: " Very upset to learn that Sir Christopher Lee has passed away. An amazing gentleman who brought us so many iconic roles. He will be missed."
Jonathan Ross said: "So sad to hear that Sir Christopher Lee has died. A great actor, a great star, a surprisingly good singer and a lovely, lovely many."
Sir Christopher Lee made his name terrifying filmgoers in blood-sucking roles opposite Peter Cushing in the Hammer Horror movies.
The bankable star became one of the most prolific actors ever, appearing in more than 250 film and television productions.
"To be a legend, you've either got to be dead or excessively old!" Lee once joked.
Aged in his 80s, Lee was named the most marketable star in the world in a USA Today poll.
His films in the previous year were said to have grossed more than £350 million in 2005.
"I've appeared in so many films that were ahead of their time, some of them were very good," Lee once told BBC News Online.
"Some weren't," he added with a smile.
Lee was born in London's Belgravia on May 27 1922 to a distinguished family.
His father was an accomplished sportsman, decorated for gallantry in the Boer War and First World War and his mother was known as an aristocratic Edwardian beauty.
Lee stood at a striking 6ft 5ins and among his publications is an autobiography entitled Tall, Dark and Gruesome.
Like his father, Lee excelled at sports.
After leaving school he did a stint as an office boy and was said to have earned £1 a week.
He was decorated for distinguished service as a Flight Lieutenant in the Second World War and became a professional actor in 1947, joining the Rank Organisation and gaining some small film roles.
He made a brief appearance in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, in which his future horror cohort Cushing also played a part.
He found fame a decade after his release from military service, in his first Hammer Horror film, playing the brutish monster in the Curse of Frankenstein.
Films such as Dracula, The Mummy and The Hound of the Baskervilles followed, all co-starring Cushing.
Lee's appeal widened with mainstream films by the 1970s, playing Scaramanga in the James Bond classic The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
He was a distant relative of 007 creator Ian Fleming.
Despite being well-known for playing "baddies", Lee also demonstrated a lightness of touch in comedy roles, such as Gremlins II.
Other memorable parts include The Lord of the Rings' Saruman and Count Dooku from the Star Wars universe.
In 2001, Lee collected his CBE from Buckingham Palace for services to drama. and in 2009 he was awarded a knighthood.
His prolific career saw him earn several Guinness World Records.
They included Most connected actor living; Most films with a swordfight by an actor and Tallest actor in a leading role.
The University of Virginia's software mapped the working relationship between 1,250,000 actors and actresses, and found the most connected person at the "centre of the Hollywood Universe" was Lee.
He held the tallest actor title alongside Vince Vaughn and the swordfight crown after having duelled in 17 films with foils, swords, light sabres - and billiard cues.
It has been said that a highlight of Lee's career for him was as host of Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s.
Lee was said to have maintained that the best film he ever starred in was the cult classic The Wicker Man, which sees a policeman called to a remote Scottish island to look for a missing girl.
But he cited a more obscure art-house film, Jinnah, as his most important work.
"The most important film I made, in terms of its subject and the great responsibility I had as an actor was a film I did about the founder of Pakistan, called Jinnah," he told the BBC.
"It had the best reviews I've ever had in my entire career - as a film and as a performance."
Lee was married for more than 40 years to Danish model Gitte Lee.
Belfast Telegraph Digital