Personal detailsName: Christopher Lee
Born: 27 May 1922 (Age: 92)
Where: London, England
Height: 6' 5"
Awards: Numerous Minor, no major nominations
All about this star
When George Lucas needed an actor to exude the eternal, relentless Dark Side Of The Force in Star Wars: Episode 2 - The Attack of the Clones, he had a choice of anyone, such was the kudos of the role. But who would be best, who could provide a human Face of Evil to rival the Death Mask of Darth Vader? Who had an appropriately intimidating physique? Who had a vast experience in combining enormous authority with unspeakable cruelty? Whose bottomless black eyes spoke of undying wickedness? Well, Lucas must have thought, I'm after a Count Dooku, and if it's a Count I need, I may as well get THE Count.
Then there was the other movie that would dominate the world's cineplexes throughout 2002, The Fellowship Of The Ring, the first instalment of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy. They've got Ian McKellan in to do the wise old Gandalf, but there's a trickier role to cast. Saruman was once the head of the Council of the Wise, the protectors of all the Free Peoples. But he got greedy for power, coveted the One Ring, and was tossed off the Council by good guy Gandalf. Now - bitter, clever but cocky-complacent, a bully who's all-too-aware of his vulnerability - he sneakily attempts to bring ruin to the Fellowship. Who could be that strong, that weak, that beastly? As with Lucas, there could be only one - the man who was Dracula, Sherlock, Frankenstein's monster, Fu Manchu. He may be 80 years old, but he's still Christopher Lee.
He was born Christopher Frank Carandini Lee on the 27th of May, 1922, in Belgravia, London. His father, Jeffrey Lee, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps and had been decorated for gallantry in both the Boer and Great wars. He was also one of England's most respected amateur sportsmen - he had certainly made a name for himself. Christopher's mother, on the other hand, had at birth been given a name to live up to. Her full title being the Contessa Estelle Marie Carandini di Sarzano, she was a noted Edwardian beauty, painted and sculpted by many of the great artists of the age. She was also a paragon of refinement, very conscious that the Carandinis are one of the oldest families in Europe, dating themselves back to the first century AD. They were close to the Emperor Charlemagne and granted the right to bear the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire by the later Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. A more recent ancestor, Cardinal Consalvi, was the Pope's Secretary Of State in Napoleonic times, and is buried in the Pantheon next to Raphael.
Sadly, Christopher's parents split when he was very young, and his mother took him and his older sister Xandra to Switzerland. Here he was enrolled at Miss Fisher's Academy in Wengen, where he took a near-immediate interest in acting. Starting as he meant to go on, he made his debut as the demonic lead in a school production of Rumpelstiltskin. Soon though, the family returned to London, where Christopher studied at Wagner's private school. Now his mother met and married Harcourt Rose, a well-to-do banker and the uncle of James Bond author Ian Fleming, and this new nuclear family came to live at Elm Park Gardens, Fulham.
In 1931, the young Count was sent off to Summer Fields prep school in Oxford. And it was here that he made the acquaintance of a fellow Future Paragon of Englishness, one Patrick Macnee. The pair would appear in many school plays together, with Lee always below Macnee in the credits. Nearly sixty years later, when Christopher played Sherlock Holmes for the first time since 1962 (having in the meantime played Holmes' brother Mycroft and Sir Henry Baskerville), Macnee would be his Watson. Lee would also appear make a couple of guest appearances in Macnee's The Avengers.
Beside his acting abilities, Christopher was a fine student, and would win a scholarship to Wellington College. A sportsman like his father, he excelled at squash, racquets and fencing, while being more than proficient at cricket, rugby, football and hockey. In class (what with his family and upbringing), he was a natural at languages, eventually becoming fluent in French, Italian, Spanish and German, while "getting along" in Swedish, Russian and Greek. He was also something of a classical scholar, delving into all things Greek and Roman.
Acting was certainly high on Christopher's list of passions, but a career in acting was altogether different. There was something shabby, even unseemly about the stage and its denizens, a stigma that would surely bring shame upon a family as noble as the Carandinis. Instead, Christopher began his work life in the City of London, as an office boy and messenger, earning a paltry '1 a week. Fortunately - if one can call such an event fortunate - World War 2 broke out, and Lee spent the next five years working for the RAF and British Intelligence. He reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant, and was decorated for his distinguished service, in particular the time he volunteered for active service during the Winter War in Finland from 1939-40. His ancestors would have been proud.BR>
But not for long. After being demobbed in 1946, Christopher wasn't sure what to do next. He only knew that he DIDN'T want to be a dogsbody for some officious little prig for '1 a week. Maybe he would become a diplomat, as his mother wished (though he recognised that his overt honesty would not serve him well). Then came revelation. One day he was lunching at the Italian Embassy with his cousin Niccolo Carandini, the first post-WW2 Italian Ambassador. Carandini asked about Lee's ambitions and likes. Acting was mentioned. Ah, ACTING, said Carandini. In the family's blood, old fellow. Lee was, of course, surprised.