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Sir Christopher Lee - Tributes flood in for 'a true legend of cinema'

Christopher Lee

Tribute by Jack Foley

TRIBUTES have been paid to actor Sir Christopher Lee, who has died aged 93.

Director Tim Burton, who worked with the iconic actor on his films Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows, led many by describing Lee as “the last of his kind – a true legend – who I’m fortunate to have called a friend”.

He added: “Christopher has been an enormous inspiration to me my entire life… He will continue to inspire me and I’m sure countless others for generations to come.”

Sir Christopher was one of cinema’s most enduring figures – iconic for his imposing physical presence as well as his powerful, towering voice. In a career spanning more than 250 acting credits for film and television, he will be best remembered for several performances: as the title role of Dracula for Hammer Films; as Lord Summerisle in cult classic The Wicker Man, as Scaramanga in 007 adventure The Man With The Golden Gun, and as Saruman in the BAFTA and Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The actor is reported to have died on Sunday (June 7, 2015) at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London, after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.

His body of work, however, will be remembered for generations to come and news of his passing prompted many glowing appraisals of his career and countless tributes from friends and colleagues who had been lucky enough to work with him.

Sir Roger Moore, who was James Bond to his assassin Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, had in fact known him since 1948, and wrote on Twitter: “It’s terribly [sad] when you lose an old friend, and Christopher Lee was one of my oldest.”

Revered film director Martin Scorsese said: “Sir Christopher Lee was my friend. I think of him every day, and I always will. We both wished that we’d been able to work together more, but it was a joy to make Hugo together. And to just be with him, just listening to his stories, in that beautiful baritone voice, stories about his time in the war, his time working during the heyday of Hammer, on all those wonderful pictures that are now considered to be classics, on eight decades in movies…

“At a certain point they realized what a treasure they had, and they made him Sir Christopher. And that’s as it should be. He was a great actor, a wonderful friend, a REAL professional, and I’m really going to miss him.”

Two of Lee’s Lord of the Rings co-stars, Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood, also paid tribute. The former wrote on Twitter: “So, so sorry to hear that Christopher Lee has passed away. He was a fascinating person. Threw a Bic pen into a tree in front of me.”

While Wood, who played Frodo Baggins in the film trilogy, wrote: “An extraordinary man and life lead, Sir Christopher Lee. You were an icon, and a towering human being with stories for days. We’ll miss you.”

Star Wars director George Lucas, who worked with Lee on Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, also paid tribute, saying: “Christopher was a great British actor of the old school. A true link to cinema’s past and a real gentleman. We will miss him.”

While Kevin Smith wrote via Twitter: “We cheered when Dracula, Saruman & Dooku lost. But today, we weep for the loss of the man who played them all. Farewell Sir Christopher Lee!”

Such was Lee’s iconic profile that even British Prime Minister David Cameron commented, saying: “Saddened to hear of Sir Christopher Lee’s death, a titan of Golden Age of Cinema & distinguished WW2 veteran who’ll be greatly missed.”

While London Mayor Boris Johnson took to Twitter by posting a photo of himself with the late star, in which Johnson brandished a Star Wars lightsaber, adding: “Really sad to hear about the death of Christopher Lee, one of the greatest British actors and a master of the macabre.”

BAFTA, which awarded Lee its highest honour, the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011, Tweeted that the death of Lee was “such sad news.”

While the British Academy’s CEO, Amanda Berry, later added that his “biography, and therefore his legacy, is one that many in the film industry can only dream of”. She added that his film catalogue include “some of the most iconic of our time”.

Amanda Nevill, CEO of the British Film Institute, also put out a lengthy statement, which read: “Sir Christopher Lee, a BFI Fellow, was a distinctive and enduring presence in British and international cinema for almost 70 years.

“He leaves behind an unforgettable legacy of film and television performance. His contribution to cinema history spans such films as the definitive Dracula for Hammer Films through Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and the seminal The Wicker Man.

“His personal favourite was the title role in Jinnah. He had a unique ability to appeal to each successive generation, gaining a new wave of fans as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and in Tim Burton’s films. British Cinema pays tribute to this global legend.”

Survivors include his wife, Kroencke, and their daughter, Christina.