Legendary actor Sir Christopher Lee, who starred in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and countless other classics, passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 93. The actor's death wasn't reported on until early this morning, out of respect for the wishes of the actor's wife of more than 50 years, Gitte Kroencke, who wanted to inform his family before the news went public. Shortly before his death, Christopher Lee was hospitalized for respiratory problems and heart failure, before passing away at 8:30 AM on Sunday June 7, at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. The news comes just a few months after Lord of the Rings cinematographer Andrew Lesnie passed away in April.
Born in London in September 1922, Christopher Lee attended Wellington College between the ages of 14 and 17, before enlisting in the Royal Air Force in 1941 during World War II. Upon his release from military service, Christopher Lee joined the Rank Organisation in 1947, training to become an actor through their "Charm School." He appeared in a number of films throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, although he often struggled to find roles because, at 6'5", he was often much taller than the lead, but he got his big break in 1957 when he was cast as The Creature in Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein. Hammer signed him to star in several other films, which started his longtime working relationship with Peter Cushing. Most times, Peter Cushing would play the protagonist and Lee the villain, such as in Horror of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959), in a working relationship that spanned 22 films.
After growing tired of his horror movie persona, the actor started to branch out into more mainstream films in the 1970s such as The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, where he played Mycroft, along with The Wicker Man, The Three Musketeers, the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, Airport '77 and Return from Witch Mountain. During that time, he also turned down the role of Loomis in John Carpenter's original Halloween, which he later admitted was the biggest mistake of his life.
The actor continued to work steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s in films such as Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow and Sleepy Hollow, before his career renaissance began in the early 21st Century, portraying Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, and Willie Wonka's father in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He reprised his Saruman role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies. His final film, Angels in Notting Hill, has yet to be released. The actor was knighted in 2009 for his services to the arts and charity, and he received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011. The actor is survived by his wife Gitte Kroencke and his daughter Christina. Here are some reactions to the actor's death after the news broke earlier this morning.
We are very sad to hear Sir Christopher Lee, who played one of Bond's greatest villains, has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family— James Bond (@007) June 11, 2015
An extraordinary man and life lead, Sir Christopher Lee. You were an icon, and a towering human being with stories for days. We'll miss you.— Elijah Wood (@woodelijah) June 11, 2015
It's terribly when you lose an old friend, and Christopher Lee was one of my oldest. We first met in 1948.— Sir Roger Moore (@sirrogermoore) June 11, 2015
Very upset to learn that Sir Christopher Lee has passed away. An amazing gentleman who brought us so many iconic roles. He will be missed.— Reece Shearsmith (@ReeceShearsmith) June 11, 2015