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Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee (May 27, 1922 — June 7, 2015) was an English actor, author, and singer who portrayed the wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings (2001 - 2003) and The Hobbit (2012 - 2014) trilogies.


Sir Christopher was born on May 27 in Belgravia, Westminster, England, the son of the Contessa Marie and Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Lee of the 60th King's Royal Rifle Corps. Lee's mother was a famous Edwardian beauty who was painted by Sir John Lavery, as well as Oswald Birley and Olive Snell, and was sculpted by Clare F. Sheridan. Lee's maternal great-grandfather had been an Italian political refugee who sought refuge in Australia; his great-grandmother was Australian opera singer Marie Carandini.

His parents separated when he was very young and his mother took Lee and his sister to Switzerland. After enrolling in Miss Fisher's Academy in Wengen, he played his first villainous role as Rumpelstiltskin.

Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman

The family returned to London where Christopher attended Wagner's private school. His mother then married Harcourt "Ingle" Rose, a banker and uncle of the James Bond author Ian Fleming. Lee applied unsuccessfully for a scholarship to Eton although the interview was to prove portentous because of the presence of the noted ghost story author M. R. James. Lee later claimed in his autobiography that James had cut a very impressive figure; sixty years later Lee played the part of M.R. James for the BBC. Instead, Lee attended Wellington College where he won scholarships in classics. Lee witnessed the execution of Eugen Weidmann, the last person to be publicly executed in France, in June 1939. He volunteered to fight for the Finnish forces during the Winter War against the Soviet Union in 1939; however, as Lee admits in his autobiography, he and his fellow British volunteers were in Finland only a fortnight and kept well away from the Russian forces the whole time. He went on to serve in the Royal Air Force and intelligence services during World War II including serving as an Intelligence officer with the Long Range Desert Group. He trained in South Africa as a pilot but eyesight problems forced him to drop out. He eventually ended up in North Africa as Cipher Officer for No. 260 Squadron RAF and was with it through Sicily and Italy. Additionally, he mentioned (including in his audio commentary on the Lord of the Rings DVD) serving in Special Operations Executive, though all details of actions undertaken by members of the SOE are still classified. Lee retired from the RAF after the end of the War with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Christopher Lee died on June 7, 2015 at 8:30 A.M. while being treated for respiratory problems and heart failure, shortly after celebrating his 93rd birthday.[1][2] His wife, Gitte Kroencke, released the news of his death a few days later.[3]


Christopher Lee as Dracula

  • Lee auditioned for the part of Gandalf, but according to an interview with Lawrence French called Sir Christopher Lee on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Lee stated "Of course I would have loved to play Gandalf, but I don’t think he (Peter Jackson) ever had me in mind for Gandalf, because by that time I was too old."[4] It is also further stated on Wikipedia, due to his physical limitations, the amount of fighting and horseback riding involved in the role was what prevented Lee from being considered. Playing Saruman was more ideal since it involved less fighting and horseback riding.[5] (Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee had a 17 year age difference.)
  • Lee was the only actor of The Lord of the Rings who had ever met Tolkien.[6]
  • He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the world's tallest actors (6'5").
  • Lee is said to have had more recorded sword fights than any other actor in history.
  • After his first role as Dracula, Lee appeared as the vampire in six other Dracula films. He also played 'The Creature' in The Curse of Frankenstein.
  • Lee was fluent in Italian (his grandfather was Italian) and German. He spoke moderate French.
  • According to a behind scenes footage found on YouTube, during the filming of his character Saruman's death scene for the The Return of the King, (later put in the Extended Edition) Peter Jackson began to coach him how he (Jackson) wanted Lee to react when Saruman was stabbed in the back by Gríma (Brad Dourif). However, Lee interrupted him, reminding him that Lee actually had previously heard the sound a man makes when he is stabbed in the back. Jackson explains in the commentary "He proceeded to talk about a very clandestine part of World War II. He seemed to have expert knowledge on exactly the kind of noise they make." Producer Barry Osborne mentions "He (Lee) was part of the British Secret Service or OSS or whatever they were called." Jackson never pushed the subject and allowed Lee to proceed.[6]
  • Christopher Lee read The Lord of the Rings in its entirety once a year.
  • Lee received the Award BAFTA Fellowship in 2011.

Christopher Lee

Documentary appearances


External links

Sean AstinSean BeanCate BlanchettOrlando BloomBilly Boyd
Marton CsokasBrad DourifBernard HillIan HolmChristopher Lee
Lawrence MakoareSir Ian McKellenDominic MonaghanViggo MortensenJohn Noble
Paul NorellMiranda OttoCraig ParkerAndy SerkisJohn Rhys-Davies
Liv TylerKarl UrbanHugo WeavingDavid WenhamElijah Wood