Did you know that Christopher Lee, ‘Saruman’ from the LOTR movies, made his acting debut in 1948 and has since appeared in over 275 films, making him the Guinness World Record holder for most acting roles.
Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ, (born 27 May 1922) is an English actor and singer. Lee initially portrayed villains and became best known for his role as Count Dracula in a string of popular Hammer Horror films. Other notable roles include Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–2003) and The Hobbit film trilogy (2012–2014), and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002, 2005).
He was knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009, and received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011. Lee considers his most important role to be that of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the biopic Jinnah (1998), and his best role to be Lord Summerisle in the British cult classic The Wicker Man (1973), which he also considers his best film.
Always noted as an actor for his deep, strong voice, he has, more recently, also taken to using his singing ability, recording various opera and musical pieces between 1986 and 1998 and the symphonic metal album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross in 2010 after having worked with several metal bands since 2005. The heavy metal follow-up titled Charlemagne: The Omens of Death was released on 27 May 2013. He was honoured with the “Spirit of Metal” award in the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden God awards ceremony.
In 1997, he was appointed a Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John. On 16 June 2001, as part of that year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, Lee was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire “for services to Drama”. He was made a Knight Bachelor “For services to Drama and to Charity” on 13 June as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009. He was knighted by Prince Charles, but because of his age he was excused the usual requirement to kneel and received the knighthood whilst standing. Lee was named 2005’s ‘most marketable star in the world’ in a USA Today newspaper poll, after three of the films he appeared in grossed US$640 million. In 2011, Lee was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship by Tim Burton.
In 2011, accompanied by his wife Birgit and on the 164th anniversary of the birth of Bram Stoker, Lee was honoured with a tribute by University College Dublin, and described his honorary life membership of the UCD Law Society as “in some ways as special as the Oscars”. He was awarded the Bram Stoker Gold Medal by the Trinity College Philosophical Society, of which Stoker was President, and a copy of Collected Ghost Stories of MR James by Trinity College’s School of English. The government of France made him a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2011.