LEE, CHRISTOPHER

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


(May 27, 1922–June 7, 2015) Tall, sinister British character actor, a veteran of countless horror films, who joined the James Bond series as Francisco Scaramanga, the title character in The Man with the Golden Gun. The part was a change of pace for Lee, who was used to playing the dark and horrifying side of every possible villain, but who, in Golden Gun, was given the opportunity to portray Scaramanga as a sexy, extremely suave, and sophisticated man about town who sleeps with Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), sunbathes on a private beach, and liquidates his clients’ enemies for $1 million a shot. In fact, Lee is so likable in the role that some critics of the film pointed out that it was hard to accept him as Bond’s deadly nemesis. After all, a man who wears jogging suits and tells stories about his pet elephant dying at the hands of an evil handler can’t be all bad.

In a 1974 interview with Cinefantastique’s Chris Knight, Lee commented, “All villains should be slightly sympathetic. You should never play them 100 percent heavy. You should always play them with sympathy, sadness, loneliness, amusement, wit, charm, elegance, style or glamour. These traits make the character much more interesting. And in the role of Scaramanga, all of these qualities were able to come into play. He wasn’t just a thug. Instead of playing him with no redeeming qualities at all, with no charm, I was able to play him as an educated, articulate man who killed because he liked money and women, and because he simply enjoyed killing.

“[Director] Guy Hamilton got something out of me in this picture which I’ve never been able to show on the screen. In his own words, he got the spook out of me. He got the Dracula out of me. Because, obviously, I can become very menacing, rather heavy, if I’m not careful, even with ordinary lines because I’ve done it so often. But on this picture, Guy got me to do Scaramanga in such a light way that you can hardly believe this man is as lethal as he is. He got me to smile and even made me laugh, something which, I admit, I haven’t found very easy to do as an actor.”[1]

Christopher Lee was destined to appear in the Bond series. He was the cousin of author Ian Fleming (Lee’s stepfather, Harcourt Rose, was Fleming’s uncle), and he was probably the inspiration for Fleming’s character Dr. No. Born in Belgravia, London, Lee had a long and prolific film and television career, making his feature film debut for Bond director Terence Young in the mystery drama Corridor of Mirrors (1948), working with Lois Maxwell. He worked with Young again in the World War II drama They Were Not Divided (1950), alongside future Bond players Edward Underdown (Thunderball), Michael Brennan, Desmond Llewelyn, Anthony Dawson, and Peter Burton. It was his appearance as the creature in director Terence Fisher’s acclaimed film The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) for Hammer Film Productions that firmly moved Lee into the world of horror cinema.

After decades of excellent work, Lee became even more popular in his later years when he played important characters in two hit film series: Saruman the wizard in The Lord of the Rings (2001–2003), and Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III—Revenge of the Sith (2005).


[1] Christopher Lee, interview by Chris Knight, Cinefantastique, 1974.