18. Peter Cushing
A close friend and frequent collaborator of Christopher Lee’s, Peter Cushing is best known to Star Wars fans as Grand Moff Tarkin, the merciless tactician and co-antagonist of Episode IV: A New Hope. In real life, the Alderaanian annihilator was known conversely as the “gentleman of horror” with a witty sense of humor. He was a lover of animals, nature, and was a deeply devoted husband. The actor’s devotion to his wife Helen was so deep that after her unfortunate death he was quoted by an interviewer as considering his remaining existence on this Earth as “killing time.”
Fans and interested readers can learn more about this British film legend in Peter Cushing: The Complete Memoirs, a collection featuring the actor’s two previously released autobiographies combined into one volume. Like his friend and frequent co-star, Lee, Cushing was also a regular star for Hammer Films. As mentioned previously his first lead role in a film was The Curse of Frankenstein as the titular character. After several more sequels as the iconoclastic mad scientist Cushing took a heroic turn as Dr. Van Helsing in the Dracula film, again opposite of Christopher Lee.
Whereas Christopher Lee was typecast as villains, Cushing was cast more often in protagonist roles. Among his most famous roles as the lead protagonist was his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the film The Hound of the Baskervilles and the later BBC series continuing the adventures of the world-renowned crime consultant. Cushing also played the Doctor in two films based off of the equally popular Doctor Who. His version of the Doctor was different from any other versions prior to or following his portrayal in that his Doctor was a human instead of an extraterrestrial. Therefore, his Doctor may not be considered as canon, but still pretty cool nonetheless.
One rather disturbing revelation that Cushing revealed in his autobiographies was his mother’s insistence on treating him as her daughter, instead of as her son. This bizarre treatment went as far as dressing him like a girl in dresses and long hair with bows until he was old enough to start school. Thankfully, his father stepped in and convinced his wife to begin dressing him properly for his gender so that he wouldn’t get picked on by his peers.
Something else that fans might not have known about Cushing was that he suffered from nyctophobia, or a fear of the dark. Also, like his fellow Star Wars alumni, Billy Dee Williams, Cushing was also an accomplished painter.