CATEGORIES Movie NewsOn May 27, British film icon Christopher Lee turns 90 years old. In his long and storied career, he's delivered countless fantastic performances in everything from medieval adventures to gothic scary stories. (You may know him as Saruman, Count Dooku, the Man with the Golden Gun or even Count Dracula.) And he has no plans to slow down, as indicated by recent roles in the Oscar-winning"Hugo" and this month's "Dark Shadows" -- not to mention an upcoming return to Middle Earth with this December's "Hobbit."
Lee is not just an actor, but a decorated military man and bombastic heavy metal singer, with a crazy family lineage to boot. To celebrate the legend's 90th birthday, we present 90 reasons why Christopher Lee is awesome.
1. He's the step-cousin of "James Bond" creator Ian Fleming, and was the author's first choice to play Dr. No in the film adaptation.
2. He's in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Tallest Leading Actor. (He's 6'5")
3. He's the tallest movie Dracula ever.
4. He agreed to star in "The Wicker Man" for free; he considers it one of his greatest roles.
5. With the exceptions of 1995 and 2006, he has appeared in at least one movie every year since 1948.
6. He starred in nine films in both 1955 and 1970.
7. He holds the record of "actor with the most profitable movies," boasting a filmography that has raked in over $4 billion (and we're not just counting his "Star Wars" and "LOTR" work).
8. So far, he's the only movie star to be a "Star Wars" villain, a "Bond" villain and a movie monster.
9. He has a marked interest in public executions and knows the names of every official public executioner employed by England, dating all the way back to the mid-15th century.
10. He played Charles Henri Sanson, the Royal Executioner of France under King Louis XVI, in the French-British co-production "La Revolution Francaise: Les Annees Terribles."
11. In addition to starring in "Rasputin: The Mad Monk," Lee met the actual assassins of the real-life mystic when he was a small child.
12. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, injured back and bruised knees/shins while filming 1959's "The Mummy"... and used them to enhance his lurching Mummy-walk.
13. During the filming of "The Hound of Baskervilles," Lee had a real tarantula crawl on him -- despite a deadly fear of spiders.
14. He was also really attacked and bitten in the arm by the dog used for the film.
15. For his character's death scene in "Airport '77" -- getting crushed in a cargo hatch -- Lee did the stunt himself, and earned the Stuntmen's Union belt buckle.
16. At the age of 78, he did the majority of the sword-fighting work for his lightsaber duels in "Attack of the Clones."
17. After hurting his back, he had to pull out of "The Wicker Tree," the 2010 sequel to "The Wicker Man." Like a trooper, he still managed to shoot a cameo role for the film.
18. He can speak German, French, Italian and Spanish (with some Swedish, Russian and Greek to boot.)
19. He learned German by listening to Richard Wagner records.
20. He recorded the German dubbing of his part in "The Last Unicorn" for free -- because he loved the film.
21. When recording his voicework for the "The Last Unicorn," he arrived with his own copy of the book, which contained several marked passages that he did not want to see get cut from the adaptation.
22. At the beginning of his career, he dubbed foreign films into English and on many occasions would do all the voices -- including the women.
23. He was one of Bryan Singer's first choices for Magneto in the "X-Men" series.
23. He was also one of John Carpenter's first choices for Dr. Loomis in "Halloween."
24. Has played Dracula ten times.
25. The cape he wore in his first appearance as Dracula is reportedly valued at $50,000.
26. He thought all of his lines in "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" were so bad, that he just decided to play the part silent instead.
27. When he was cast in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," one of the first things he did was apologize to director Joe Dante for starring in "The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf," the poorly-received sequel to Dante's 1980 werewolf hit.
28. During the press for "Howling II," he revealed that he took the part because he had already done movies involving Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula and the Mummy, and he needed to do a werewolf film.
29. He had his own book series: a horror anthology, featuring works from Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker.
30. He has starred in two different film versions of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
31. His very first acting performance, a school production, was as a demonic Rumpelstiltskin.
32. He just happened to be next-door neighbors with another famous Frankenstein monster: Boris Karloff.
33. He has played Dr. Fu Manchu five times.
34. He doesn't consider the work he did to be known as horror; he prefers to call it "the theater of the fantastique."
35. Has played not just Sherlock Holmes (in three on-screen appearances), but also the detective's brother Mycroft ("The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes") and Sir Henry Baskerville (1959's "The Hound of Baskerville").
36. He's the only member of the "Lords of the Ring" film production to actually meet J.R.R. Tolkien.
37. He has read the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy once a year since it was published.
38. He received Tolkien's blessing to play Gandalf if there was ever a film adaptation.
39. He was always Peter Jackson's first choice for the role of Saruman, and was the first actor cast in the trilogy.
40. He helped give tips to the make-up team on how to design the monsters of Middle Earth.
41. He shot "The Fellowship of the Ring" with a broken hand.
42. He first bonded with Peter Cushing, his long-time friend and co-star, by quoting "Looney Tunes" with each other during the filming of "The Curse of Frankenstein."
43. Lee and Peter Cushing were contracted to star in 1972's "Horror Express," but the death of Cushing's wife the year before left him despondent with grief. Lee and his family helped Cushing get through the December shoot and kept him company during the Christmas season. 44. For his final collaboration with Peter Cushing in 1983's "House of the Long Shadows," they brought along fellow horror icons Vincent Price and John Carradine as co-stars.
45. To play Rochefort in Richard Lester's "Three Musketeers" series, he chose to depict the character with an eye-patch; his rendition was so influential that the '90s Disney version and last year's 3D update kept the eye-patch -- despite it never actually appearing in the original book.
46. Patrick Macnee (who was an uncredited extra) and Lee are the only surviving cast members of Laurence Olivier's Oscar-winning production of "Hamlet"; Lee played an uncredited Spear Carrier.
47. Throughout his career, he has starred as, Mephistopheles, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, the founder of Pakistan and voiced both the Jabberwocky dragon and Death itself.
48. His movie "The City of the Dead" a.k.a. "Horror Hotel" has had clips and dialogue sampled by Iron Maiden, King Diamond, the Misfits and Rob Zombie.
49. He made an uncredited voice cameo in the 1965 version of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians."
50. He served as host of "Mystery Theater," a 2009 nightly radio series that presented classic mystery shows.
51. In addition to reprising his iconic characters in video game adaptations of "Lord of the Rings" and "Bond," he also served as narrator of "The Rocky Interactive Horror Show" computer game.
52. Earned more video game cred with voice work in the "EverQuest" and "Kingdom Hearts" series.
53. He's a classically trained singer.
54. He appears as a soloist on "The Lord of the Rings: Complete Songs and Poems" box set which compiled all of the songs from Tolkien's book series.
55. In 2006, he released the solo album "Revelation," performing classics like "Little Drummer Boy," "Silent Night" and "My Way."
56. In 2010, he released "Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross," a symphonic metal concept album where he performs as the Roman Emperor.
57. The album featured two metal bands, a collection of guest vocalists and a 100 piece orchestra.
58. "Charlemagne" earned him the "Spirit of the Hammer" award from Metal Hammer Magazine; he had the award presented to him by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.
59. He's a fan of American metal band Manowar and provided narration on the re-recording of their song "Dark Avenger." (A narration originally done by Orson Welles.)
60. He suffered a permanent hand injury thanks to a drunken Errol Flynn during a sword fight in "The Dark Avenger" -- and he continued filming.
61. He recorded a video for the Earthshaker heavy metal festival in 2005, proclaiming "Heavy metal will never die."
62. He is also a fan of Italian metal band Rhapsody, and recorded an introduction to their song "Unholy Warcry."
63. Then he teamed up with them on the single "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream."
64. This video exists:
65. He has also recorded French, German and Italian versions of "Wizard's Dream."
66. He provided guest vocals on the Euro-disco single "Little Witch."
67. He received an Academy Fellowship, the BAFTA lifetime achievement award, in 2011.
68. For his contributions to the film and television industry, he received a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001.
69. Then in 2009, he was honored as Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire ,for his artistic and charitable efforts.
70. Additionally, he is a Commander of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and was also named an Officier des arts et lettres by the French cultural minister.
71. Way back in 1979 -- before his "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" work -- he had been rewarded with the Life Career Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
72. Oh yeah, he's also received lifetime achievement awards from SFX Magazine, Empire Magazine, Italy's Fantafestival, Portugal's Festroia International Film Festival, the Evening Standard British Film Awards and the Seattle Film Critics Awards.
73. In 2004, he was made an honorary citizen of Casina, Italy, the home of his ancestors.
74. Those ancestors just happen to be nobility who resided in the castle Sarzano.
75. His great-grandparents were the founders of the first opera company of Australia.
76. His mother was regarded as a subject of beauty and painted and sculpted by several artists during the Edwardian era.
77. He has been happily married to Danish model Birgit "Gitte" Kroencke since 1961.
78. He was friends with billionaire industrialist Jean Paul Getty, and got to use Getty's residence at the Sutton Place estate for his honeymoon.
79. Plus, he's served as a judge for the Miss World Beauty Pageant.
80. He is such an avid golfer that he became the first actor to become a member of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the oldest golf club in the world.
81. You can't forget about his hosting stint in the third season of "SNL" -- with musical guest Meat Loaf!
82. He was in "Police Academy: Mission to Moscow." That is all.
83. He's on the album cover to Wings' "Band on the Run" because why not?
84. This scene:
85. He served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves during WWII.
86. Then he served as an intelligence officer in the Long Range Desert Group.
87. According to Peter Jackson, he knew the exact sound a man makes while being stabbed, and used it for "Lord of the Rings."
88. His thoughts on vampires: "There are many vampires in the world today... you only have to think of the film business."
89. His view on life: "One should try anything he can in his career, except folkdance and incest"
90. He likes to garden in his pastime.