I said to my friend, “Hey, I just read that Christopher Lee turned 90 on May 27th. What’s your favorite Christopher Lee performance?” She instantly said, “The Wicker Man.” That certainly is a good one.
Young people now mostly know Lee as Saruman from “The Lord of the Rings” movies, but long before that he was considered a stalwart of the horror genre, making some very good movies and some very bad ones. Very, very bad ones. Well, when you’ve had as long a career as Lee has had, you’re bound to stumble into some clunkers.
No matter how bad a movie was, though, Lee always performed with his trademark wit and grace. Plus he’s just awesome. How awesome? Well, Moviefone has put together a list of “90 Reasons Why Christopher Lee is Awesome.” Unfortunately, I can’t just copy and paste the whole thing here, but here are a few that I thought stood out:
4. He agreed to star in “The Wicker Man” for free; he considers it one of his greatest roles.
5. With the exceptions of 1995 and 2006, he has appeared in at least one movie every year since 1948.
6. He starred in nine films in both 1955 and 1970.
7. He holds the record of “actor with the most profitable movies,” boasting a filmography that has raked in over $4 billion (and we’re not just counting his “Star Wars” and “LOTR” work).
8. So far, he’s the only movie star to be a “Star Wars” villain, a “Bond” villain and a movie monster.
15. For his character’s death scene in “Airport ’77″ — getting crushed in a cargo hatch — Lee did the stunt himself, and earned the Stuntmen’s Union belt buckle.
16. At the age of 78, he did the majority of the sword-fighting work for his lightsaber duels in “Attack of the Clones.”
36. He’s the only member of the “Lords of the Ring” film production to actually meet J.R.R. Tolkien.
37. He has read the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy once a year since it was published.
38. He received Tolkien’s blessing to play Gandalf if there was ever a film adaptation.
Well, there’s a big oops on that last one. Nevertheless, what a fascinating career. Read the rest of the list here and keep making movies, Mr. Lee.