Christopher Lee (Saruman) hits 90

We’re big fans of the Hammer horror films, the classic British scare fests that launched the careers of Christopher Lee, who played Dracula ten times for the studio, and Peter Cushing, who was usually Dr. Frankenstein.

Tall, imposing, and eloquent, Lee made Dracula uniquely his own role overseas, and has been keeping busy well into his twilight years, with roles in Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars prequels, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and Dark Shadows, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, and more.

Now Lee is celebrating his 90th birthday, and it’s wonderful that as he’s hit this milestone he still has a loyal legion of fans, and is still active. In celebration of Lee hitting the big 9-0, Moviefone listed “90 Reasons the Horror Icon Is Awesome,” and while we won’t go through all ninety, here’s some from the list we think you’ll enjoy…


Lee is well known for his height, he’s in the Guinness Book as “World’s Tallest Leading Actor” at 6’5, he was reportedly the tallest actor in Britain. Lee also apparently did The Wicker Man, the original one, not the Nicholas Cage atrocity, for free, and it’s one of his favorite performances.


Lee is also such a trooper, he’s terrified of spiders, but let a tarantula crawl on him for The Hound of Baskervilles. He reportedly did most of his own sword-fighting for Attack of the Clones at 78 years old. He was reportedly one of Bryan Singer’s first choices to play Magneto in X-Men, and John carptner also wanted him to play Dr. Loomis in Halloween. Lee would later tell John it was the biggest mitake he made in his career. (Peter Cushing also turned down the role).


Other Lee trivia includes the fact that he’s played Dracula ten times, and he’s also played Dr. Fu Manchu five times, Sherlock Holmes five times, and he’s the only person who has starred in the Lord of the Rings films who has met J.R.R. Tolkien. 

Moviefone tells us that Tolkien gave Lee his blessing to play Gandalf if a movie of Lord of the Rings ever went through. (He of course ended up playing Saruman, and was Peter Jackson’s first choice for the role). He also used to live next door to Boris Karloff, and both shared a love of cricket.


There’s many other great reasons to celebrate the life and career of Christopher Lee, and it’s great to see he’s still here and working at 90 years young. Happy birthday Christopher, here’s to more great performances to come.