17. Christopher Lee
A legend within the horror/fantasy genre long before his notable role as Star Wars fallen Jedi, Count Dooku, Christopher Lee rekindled his career at a time when most people his age would have been retired, reflecting back on the good ol’ days.
Fortunately, Lee’s lengthy career proved advantageous when he chose to record his experiences in his two autobiographies: Christopher Lee, Tall, Dark, and Gruesome and Lord of Misrule: The Autobiography of Christopher Lee. Both books span several decades worth of storied events in the life of a man that many might have only thought of as the face of innumerable villains.
Among the myriad of anecdotes from his autobiographies, one of the earliest and most noteworthy came when he was among the final witnesses to the last execution by guillotine in Paris. Next, came his military service during WWII in the Royal Air Force Intelligence, which eventually led to his appointment to a task force that tracked down Nazi war criminals. After retiring from the RAF with the rank of flight lieutenant Lee followed his cousin, Nicolò Carandini’s, advice and pursued work as an actor. His film debut came in 1947 as the character Charles in the Gothic Romance film called Corridor of Mirrors.
After a decade spent in minor roles, Lee finally got his big break playing The Creature in the 1957 Hammer Films production The Curse of Frankenstein. This film was notable for many other reasons besides being Lee’s first major role. It was the first of the Hammer Films to be shot in color, one of the earliest to have gruesome blood and gore effects (intensified by its color presentation), and also the first lead role in a film for Peter Cushing, best known to Star Wars fans as Grand Moff Tarkin.
Besides having a long and illustrious career in films, not to diminish his impressive military service, Lee also lent his distinctively deep voice to audiobooks, games, voice-over work, and even music albums. And, get this, while his bass voice was naturally suited to opera-style music, Lee’s preferred performance was in heavy metal/symphonic music albums. Yup. Count Dooku was strong with the Metal.
In fact, he contributed his vocals to several collaborations with metal artists/bands including the Italian power metal band, Rhapsody of Fire. As mind-blowing as that is, Lee also won a “Spirit of Metal” award while in his ’80s for his first full album, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. This was later followed up by a sequel album called Charlemagne: The Omens of Death in which he shot a music video for one of its singles. And at the age of 91 years and 6 months, he became the oldest living performer to be entered into the music charts with his Christmas metal song, Jingle Hell, placing No. 22 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Finally, one other interesting fact that fans might not know about Christopher Lee was that he actually was descended from high-born blood — courtesy of his mother’s side of the family — the Carandinis. So, I suppose one could say that Count Dooku/Dracula wasn’t faking being aristocratic. Christopher Lee was without a doubt one of the most interesting people in Hollywood. That being said, it doesn’t take any special Jedi persuasions to see why his autobiographies would be worth reading to anyone.