The most shocking thing about Christopher Lee’s passing on Sunday is that everyone seemed shocked. Normally the death of a 93 year old person is commonplace, some might remark that they’d done well to reach such an age. With Lee though, one just assumed he’d keep going forever.
His life was one of such surpassing adventure that one can scarcely believe it isn’t fiction. He lived with Russian royalty, served Africa and Europe in WW2 (including the savage Battle of Monte Cassino), befriended the King of Sweden, became fluent in 6 languages and climbed Mt Vesuvius…three days before it erupted.
His long and eclectic acting career were famously dominated by villainous roles, from the vampire Dracula to the corrupted wizard Saruman. Less publicised perhaps was his outing as General Miguel in the TV movie Captain America II – Death Too Soon. Our generation may quake in our boots at Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull and Hydra, but the ‘70s feared nothing more than Miguel and his nefarious plans to prematurely age the people of Portland to death.
For this writer though he will forever be Count Dooku. The first Star Wars trilogy is famously ill-regarded by fans and film-lovers alike but Lee’s casting brought some much needed respectability, the same respectability that his old friend and Hammer Horror co-star Peter Cushing brought to A New Hope in 1977.
One thing common to all his roles, whether in blockbuster franchise or TV movie, was the regal dignity with which he performed. This, coupled with his deep and sonorous voice, made his villainous performances memorable and utterly believable.
With those imposing vocals he also acted in many voice-over roles and provided narration to several projects, including a recent documentary of DC villains (Necessary Evil: Villains Of DC Comics, 2013).
Actors of such calibre and gravitas, of the era of classical acting, are now very few indeed. Cushing died in 1994, Alec Guinness in 2000, Gregory Peck in 2003. I can think of only Donald Sutherland and Max Von Sydow as comparable to Lee in terms of charisma and magnetism who are still alive.
His loss is great indeed, but his legacy of acting, voiceover and song have ensured his immortality. Like Count Dooku, he has “become more powerful than any Jedi.”
The writer of this piece was:
Lewis “Daft Vader” Campbell
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