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Christopher Frank Carandini Lee
Belgravia, Westminster, England, U.K.
May 27, 1922
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Sir Christopher Lee (born 27 May 1922) is a prolific British actor (over 270 films to date) who is generally cast in villainous roles and is noted for his resonant bass voice and towering height (6'5"). After several years of clerical work in London Lee joined the RAF during World War II, working for military intelligence; during that time he witnessed the German death-camps, and later stated that the real-life horrors he saw there inured him to anything he said or did on-screen. He has also consistently refused to disclose his military intelligence activities, once saying:
When people say to me, you know, were you in this? Were you in that? Did you work in this? Did you work in that? I always used to say 'Can you keep a secret?' And they would say "Yes, yes" and I would say "So can I."
After being demobbed, Lee decided to become an actor and joined the Rank Organisation in 1947, receiving training in its "Charm School" and playing a number of bit-parts. He struggled initially in his new career because of his appearance - he towered over the leading men of his day and was considered too "foreign-looking" - but worked steadily throughout the 1950s until he was cast as the Creature in Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). Although covered in makeup he made enough of an impact for Hammer to cast him in the title role of Dracula the following year, which secured his rise to stardom.
Lee has been working steadily in film ever since, usually associated with horror films such as those he made for Hammer to the early 1970s, but has appeared in a number of non-genre films. These include the Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), opposite fellow Rank Charm School "classmate" Sir Roger Moore, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), and as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and the forthcoming The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (due for release in 2012-2013).
Lee has made several appearances in Tim Burton's films alongside Johnny Depp, including Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and has been confirmed as Bill Malloy in the 2012 film adaptation of Dark Shadows.