Entertainment & Arts

Sir Christopher Lee: Moore leads tributes to late actor

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Media captionNick Higham looks back at the life of Sir Christopher Lee, who has died at the age of 93

Sir Roger Moore, George Lucas and Peter Jackson have led tributes to screen legend Sir Christopher Lee, who has died at the age of 93.

The actor, who made his name as Dracula, famously played Bond villain Scaramanga and starred in both The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

Bond co-star, Sir Roger Moore, tweeted his sadness at losing "an old friend".

George Lucas hailed "a great British actor of the old school. A true link to cinema's past and a real gentleman".

In a lengthy post on his Facebook page, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson called him a "scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvellous actor".

He continued: "I was lucky enough to work with Chris on five films all told and it never ceased to be a thrill to see him on set. I remember him saying on my 40th Birthday (he was 80 at the time), "You're half the man I am".

"Being half the man Christopher Lee is, is more than I could ever hope for. He was a true gentleman, in an era that no longer values gentleman."

US director Martin Scorsese said he was "really going to miss him".

"I think of him every day, and I always will," said Scorsese. "We both wished that we'd been able to work together more, but it was a joy to make Hugo together. He was a great actor, a wonderful friend, a real professional."

He was best-known for his villainous roles - including Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, and the evil wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings - as well as his sinister, and iconic, role in cult classic The Wicker Man.

The actor is reported to have died on Sunday at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London, after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

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Media captionA look back at some iconic moments in Sir Christopher Lee's acting career

A Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said: "We can confirm that the Register Office issued a death certificate for Mr Christopher Lee on Monday 8 June, Mr Lee died on Sunday 7 June."

He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2011.

Sir Roger was among the first to pay tribute, tweeting: "It's terribly [sad] when you lose an old friend, and Christopher Lee was one of my oldest. We first met in 1948."

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His Lord Of The Rings co-star Elijah Wood, who played Frodo in the franchise, said: "You were an icon, and a towering human being with stories for days. We'll miss you."

Another Rings co-star, Dominic Monaghan, said: "So, so sorry to hear that Christopher Lee has passed away. He was a fascinating person."

Sir Christopher also worked with director Tim Burton on five films including Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Burton described him as "an enormous inspiration".

"He was the last of his kind - a true legend - who I'm fortunate to have called a friend. He will continue to inspire me, and I'm sure countless others, for generations to come."

"The great, always criminally underrated Sir Christopher Lee has left us," actor and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted. "A Titan of Cinema and a huge part of my youth. Farewell."

Actor Reece Shearsmith called him "an amazing gentleman who brought us so many iconic roles. He will be missed."

Broadcaster 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 man."

Writer Neil Gaiman said he was "so lucky and proud" to have had Lee in the cast of BBC Radio 4's recent dramatisation of Neverwhere. "Great actor, great loss," he tweeted.

"We are deeply saddened to hear that Sir Christopher Lee has passed away," the British Film Institute (BFI) said.

Monster roles

Born into affluence in London in 1922, Sir Christopher traced his lineage to Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor.

After public school he served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War, where he was mentioned in dispatches.

His screen career began when he joined the Rank Organisation in 1947, training as an actor in their so-called "charm school".

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Image caption The actor spent 10 years filling smaller roles before signing with Hammer films

It was his association with British studio Hammer that made him a household name, playing characters such as Frankenstein's monster, The Mummy and Dracula in the late 1950s.

Sir Christopher would go on to reprise the trademark vampire role in a number of sequels, before finally laying him to rest in the 1970s.

He appeared in 1976's To the Devil a Daughter, the last horror movie of Hammer's original era, but returned to the Hammer stable for its 21st Century relaunch in 2011's The Resident, which starred Hilary Swank.

His 6ft 4in frame and pointed features often typecast him as a bad guy. His distant cousin Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, wanted him to play Dr No in the film of the same name - but that role went to Joseph Wiseman.

Lee eventually played another villain, Scaramanga, in 1974's The Man With The Golden Gun.

He also played Fu Manchu in a series of films in the 1960s.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars prequels - in which he played the nefarious Count Dooku - were the most successful films of his career from a commercial standpoint.

He also demonstrated his versatility in comedies like 1941 and Gremlins 2.

His other films included 1959's The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Three Musketeers (1973), and Jinnah - which he considered to be one of his most important films (1997).

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Image caption The actor was awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2011, and posed with his wife of 54 years, Brigit

"I've appeared in so many films that were ahead of their time - some of them were very good," the actor told the BBC News website in 2001. "Some weren't."

A lover of opera, Sir Christopher launched his singing career in the 1990s, with an album of Broadway tunes, including I Stole The Prince from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, and Epiphany from Sweeney Todd.

He also enjoyed an unlikely heavy metal career. In 2010, his album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross won a Spirit of Metal Award from Metal Hammer magazine.

He marked his 92nd birthday by releasing an album of heavy metal cover versions.

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