Sir Christopher Lee

  1.  George Pastell, The Stranglers of Bombay, 1959.     Hammer goes to India – for the story, not the (UK) locations (and re-used Horror of Dracula sets, to follow the 1830s’ fight by the British Army, er, no, the army of the all-powerful East India Company, against the thieves and killers of the Thugee Cult of Kali. Apparently, this was first planned as another Peter Cushing v Lee battle, as Captain Lewis and the Kali sect’s high priest.
  2. David Peel, Brides of Dracula, 1960.     Chris Lee refused a second Dracula film for eight years to avoid the typecasting that ruined Bela Lugosi. He gave in only in 1966 for Dracula: Prince of Darkness – after being The Mummy, Dr. Jekyll, Sherlock Holmes, Rasputin and Fu Manchu. Peel never rose again.
  3. Paul Massie, The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll, 1960.     Bored with Lee and Cushing, Hammer ignored Lee’s demand to play the original odd couple. Big mistake. Lee was apeased with a special role written by Wolf Mankowitz.
  4. Herbert Lom, The Phantom of the Opera, 1961.     There were many discussions at Bray Studios about seating Lee at the organ. He would have been ideal for the musical – not composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber for another 24 years.
  5. Joseph Wiseman, Dr No, 1962.
  6. Don Murray, The Viking Queen, Don Murray, The Viking Queen, 1966.      If you were a Hammer Films producer and you couldn’t obtain Chris Lee for role – Justinian – who would you go after? Surely, anyone but Marilyn Monroe’s Bus Stop cowboy for a fair-minded Roman sharing rule with Salina – Finnish model Cairita (Järvinen) in her second and final movie
  7. Guy Dolman, The Deadly Bees, 1967.      Psycho author Robert Bloch penned rival bee-keepers Ralph and Manfred, for the old firm. Lee and Boris Karloff.
  8. Eddie Powell, The Lost Continent, 1967.      What a mess! Producer Michel Carreras sacked director Leslie Norman and took over helming until  running so late that his father, Hammer Films chief James Carreras, shut the movie down. What else for a project that (a) the author Dennis Wheatley couldn’t even remember and (b) that instead of Chris Lee as The Inquisitor, used his s stunt (and once, nude) double at Hammer (dubbed by Eric Porter). Powell had 58 stunting credits, from Bond to Dracula and back. – IMDb called it Love Boat On Acid.
  9. Lloyd Bochner, The Dunwich Horror, 1969.   “People seldom visit Dunwich,” said HP Lovecraft. “The town is ruined, decadent and its annals reek of overt viciousness, murder, crime and violent deed, un-nameable.”  The film, not so much… Pity because it nearly had the Italian horror ace, Mario Bava, directing what  AIP unimaginatively called Scarlet Friday.  Bava wanted his old mates, Boris Karloff and Chris Lee, as the two doctors guarding The Necronomicon book –   “able to unlock the gates to another dimension, to another race of beings.“ But we got a weak Dean Stockwell and long-nailed Sandra Dee’s nudity supplied by a short-nailed body-double.  Unless Sandra cut her nails while waiting for the lighting…
  10. John Forbes-Robbins, The Vampire Lovers, 1970.      Even though they re-named him Man In Black, Lee knew Hammer was trying to get another Dracula out of him. And refused any more pointy dentures.Consequently, Peter Cushing was swiftly added to the 18th Century proceedings. As if Ingrid Pitt and the exquisite Madeline Smith were not attraction enough.

  11. Robert Hardy,Demons of the Mind, 1971.   Hammer Films’ horrors were  running out of steam. Its  new (indeed almost last) villain, Baron Zorn, was also aimed at James Mason, Paul Scofield, while scenarist Christopher Wicking wanted either of  the two  Hammer stalwarts: Lee or Peter Cushing. No way, said Hammer. You can’t have Lee – he’s our Dracula and nothing else.  Not for much longer. With Hollywood calling, he left Hammer after his seventh fang trip, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, in 1972 . Eric Porter took overas Zom but was then switched to another Hammer vehicle instead: Hands of the Ripper.
  12. Theodore Bikel, 200 Motels, 1971.      Lee was top choice for The Devil, aka Rance Muhammitz, in Frank Zappa’s Spinal Tap – 13 years before Rob Reiner’s classic of a rock band on the run. Frank Zappa co-directed, let Ringo Starr rule Zappa’s Mothers of Invention band and found room for The Who’s crazy drummer Keith Moon… as a nun. “Touring makes you crazy,” said Zappa. Nuff said!   Yes, but… Theodore Bikel ?!
  13. Tom Baker, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 1973.       It was Lee v the next (and longest lasting) Doctor Who for what… For Koura, your everyday creator of the homunculus and practitioner of evil magic, it says here… in Brian Clemens’ scenario.
  14. Jack Nicholson, Tommy, 1974.   Good thinking by director Ken Russell. Except, Lee was becoming The Man With The Golden Gun in Thailand. Peter Sellers was next choice. Then,Nicholson  happened to be in London at  the time with a spare 18 hours for singing and filming.
  15. John Forbes-Robertson, 7 Golden Vampires (US: The Seven  Brothers  Meet Dracula), Hong-Kong, 1974.    Sad way to end Hammer’s Dracula franchise. Lee had already lain The Old Boy  to rest the previous year with The Satanic Rites of Dracula…  leading to such nonsense as “The first Kung Fu Horror Spectacular”!  The vamps met the real Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) but only a Dracula, the Dracula fleeing… having  read the script.   Lee and Forbes-Robertson had co-starred in the true WWII story,  The Pursuit of the Graf Spee, 1957.
  16. Anthony Steel, Histoire d’O (UK/US: The Story of O), France-West Germany-Canada, 1975.  Passed the role of Sir Stephen to Steel, once the pride of Pinewood and Anita Ekberg, now reduced to German Westerns, Swedish and Italian schlock  and, soon enough, such 1977 UK  soft-core sex tat as Hardcore and Let’s Get  Laid. Lee had been trapped into the soft-porn route in Jess Franco’s Eugenie… The Story of  Her Journey into Perversion,  in 1969. The title wasn’t a giveaway?
  17. John Vernon, Golden Rendezvous, 1976.         Richard Harris had Lee sacked as Alistair MacLean’s terrorism novel limps into life.
  18. Peter Cushing, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1976.
  19. Philip Madoc, Doctor Who #84 : The Brain of Morbius, TV, 1976.       Due to the Frankenstein elements, director Christopher Barry tried to interest horror icons, Lee, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, in the mad scientist Solon constructing a body from spares on the planet Karn. Next? John Bennett and the winning Madoc. Anti sex/violence campaigner Mary Whitehouse said the four-parter was “the sickest and most horrific material seen on children’s television.” Up to 10.2 million viewers disagreed, Plus Doc4 Tom Baker.
  20. Master Bong Soo Han, The Kentucky Fried Movie, 1977.      Newly installed in Hollywood at suggestion of Billy Wilder and Richard Widmark, Lee aimed to avoid horror vehicles and had not yet discovered a sense of humour – and refused   the idea of an unknown director called John Landis spoofing   Fu Man Chu in the sketch, A Fistful of Yen. He as replaced in style – as Dr Klahn – by Grand Master Bong Soo Han, the Father of Hapkido and Tom Laughlin’s stunt-double and action-choreograpehr foir Billy Jack, 1971.

  21. Charles Gray, The Legacy, 1977.  Failing to be Harry Liebnecht, immolated in Jimmy Sangster’s literal horror – with Hollywood leads, of course (Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott) in an English country house, of course – were the obviously much relieved Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough (the future Batman’s man, Alfred), Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who, 1966-1969), Peter Vaughan. Plus two Donalds: Houston and Pleasence.  Gray was totally mis-cast. Better German accents would have from the also listed Lee, Peter Arne, Anton Diffring and Herbert Lom. Elliott (who wed Ross in 1984) warned the Associated Press: “I wouldn’t rush out to see it. It’s about 15 years behind its time.”
  22. Peter Cushing, The Uncanny, 1978.       “I know you make good movies,” Lee told producer Milton Subotsky. “But I’ve moved out of the low budget picture range. I’m better off in an $8m flop than one of your huge successes.”

  23. Donald Pleasence, Halloween, 1978.
    Hitchcock fan auteur John Carpenter searched high and low for his shrink, Dr Sam Loomis. Peter O’Toole and the Hammer horrors, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee versus Charles Napier, Lawrence Tierney, Abe Vigoda. The $300,00 shoestring budget couldn’t afford any of them! Same for Lloyd Bridges, David Carradine, Kirk Douglas, Steven Hill, Walter Matthau… even such off-the-wallers as John Belushi, Mel Brooks, Yul Brynner, Edward Bunker, Sterling Hayden, Dennis Hopper, Kris Kristofferson… and Dick’s brother, Jerry Van Dyke.   Pleasence said he only made the film because his daughter told  him to!   She loved Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13… He also told Carpenter he’d never read the script. “Only later,” said Carpenter, “after [we] became close friends, did I realise he was finding out how much I loved the movie I was making.” Incidentally, Loomis was named after John Gavin’s Psycho character; his screen lover was Janet Leigh, mother of Carpenter’s heroine, Jamie Lee Curtis. So it flows.

  24. Richard Burton, Absolution, 1978.    Chris tried hard to mount the drama in 1973, having already made Anthony Shaffer’s Wicker Man, 1973. “Technically, he could’ve played it,” said Shaffer. “But he was in his Dracula period, which would’ve shifted the emphasis of the piece entirely.” America did not see Burton – “at his brilliant best!” screamed LA ads – until 1988. Four years after his death.
  25. Maximilian Schell, The Black Hole, 1978.   One Swede, three Germans and six Brits were dsicussed for Dr Hans Reinhardt – heading a mission aboard the US spaceship, Palomino, to find habitable spots in space. Max von Sydow; Anton Diffring, Curd Jürgens, Hardy Krüger; plus Harry Andrews, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Kemp, Hardy Kruger Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence and Patrick Troughton. This was Disney’s first attempt at science fiction – and a PG rating.  Never got it right until buying Lucasfilm and the Star Warsfranchise.  In 2014. Peter Cushing knew better, of course. He had accepted Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope…  in 1976!
  26. Leslie Nielsen, Airplane! 1979.      “And don’t call me Shirley!” Lee did not understand it and passed. “A big mistake,” he later admitted. He was perfect for Dr Rumack as the ZAZ team of producer-auteurs (Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker), chased actors whose straight images would make their scenes even funnier. And they got ’em.  Peter Graves, Robert Stack and – leading to whole careers for them, instead playing granddads – Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges.
  27. John Carradine, The Monster Club, 1980.   For the role of R. Chetwynd-Hayes, director Roy Ward Baker went from one celebrated monster to another – and managed to sign up four in all. Carradine, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Vincent Price.
  28. Louis Jourdan, Swamp Thing, 1982.   Rejected the habitual mad scientist (a surprise take-over by Jourdan who usually only played madly handsome) to send up superheroes (‘and sing!”) as Mr Midnight, the nemesis of The Return of Captain Invincible, 1983).
  29. Jonathan Pryce, Something Wicked This Way Comes, 1982.     During his Hollywood period, Lee was short-listed (with Edward James Olmos) for the creator of Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival. Maybe he saw what was coming… Disney suits rejected a Stephen King script and a Georges Delerue score (!), added special effects willy-nilly and held up the release for a year while trying to mend their own mistakes. No way to treat author Ray Bradbury.

  30. Patrick Stewart, Lifeforce, 1984.
  31. Michael Gothard, Lifeforce, 1984.
  32. Frank Finlay, Lifeforce, 1984.

  33. Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1987.      Lee passed on the unblinking Judge Doom. Also keen on the obvious toon character were Roddy McDowall, Jon Pertwee and Sting. John Cleese was rejected because of his Monty Python fame, while Robin Williams’ comedy past didn’t bother anyone. Tim Curry did, though – his audition terrified producer Steven Spielberg and director Robert Zemeckis. Terry Gilliam refused to direct what he called as “a variation on the Howard the Duck story.” No, Terry, it was based on Roger Towne’s story for the third Jake Gittes/Chinatown movie.
  34. Robert Vaughn,  Skeleton Coast, 1987.  Lee, Klaus Kinski, Donald Pleasence were first up for the roles played by Vaughn, Oliver Reed and a Colonel Ernest Borgnine. In a Z-reprise of Uncommon Valour, 1983, when Colonel Gene Hackman’s team searched forhisson in a Laos POW camp. Vaughn had been suggested as the rescue squad numbered seven. (Just not magnificent).
  35. Patrick Macnee, Waxwork, 1987.    Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough and Donald Pleasence were the inevitables in London auteur Anthony Hickox’s mind for Sir Wilfrid  – in a horror trip unleashig havoc with wax models of the Marquis De Sade, The Mummy, The Werewolf… and allowing Miles O’Keefe to be (surely?)  the only actor to portray both Tarzan and, as here, Dracula.   I still have the tee-shirt.  It lights up in the dark.  More than the movie ever did. 
  36. Anton Diffring, Doctor Who #150: Silver Nemesis, TV, 1988.      Pinewood’s top Nazi was obviously on the list for the Nazi De Flores in the 25th anniversary episode. Along with: Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Peter Cushing, Frank Finlay Robert Flemyng, Michael Gough, Charles Gray, Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence and Peter Vaughan. Although baffled by the script, and in poor health, Diffring accepted what was his final rôle in order to be in London and able to watch the Wimbledon tennis. He then returned to his French home and was dead within a year.
  37. Donald Pleasence, Ten Little Indians, 1989.      Not keen on Judge Wargrave (or perhaps, on producer Harrry Alan Towers). This was Towers’ third version of the Agatha Christie classic. He wrote the other two. Well, his 1956 dialougue was repeated (with minor changes) in the 1974 re-tread. This version required new text as it was suddenly re-set on… African safari. Cheaper.
  38. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
  39. Ian McKellen, X-Men quartet, 1999-2013.  “Welcome to the future.”  Producer James Cameron and his then wife, director Kathryn Bigelow, chose Christopher Lee for Eric Lensherr/Magneto in the early 90s – and never made the film!   For his take, director Bryan Singer met with Terence Stamp (much loved for his General Zod in Superman) and (the too busy) Hemblen, Magneto’s TV toon and video-game voice, before choosing  – of course! – his Apt Pupil star. Ian McKellen. Singer arranged his schedules with Peter Jackson so that Ian could be Gandalf down under in The Lord of the Rings… also starring Lee!
  40. Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2003.     Richard Attenborough, Ian McKellen, Peter O’Toole – many veterans were tossed into the ring for the gay Albus Dumbledore after the 2002 death of Richard Harris. Plus Lee – busy enough, among his 250 plus screen roles, with both the George Lucas and Peter Jackson cycles. What a dzouble whammy!
  41. Roy Dotrice, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2007.    Too busy elsewhere (usually in Peter Jackson country) for Lord Balor in Ron Perlman’s titular sequel.
  42. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Hobbit trilogy, 2011-2012.

Lee played 281 screen roles in his 1946-2017 career – that is 102 more than John Wayne, who began his career 20 years earlier! Indeed, two years after his death, Lee’s majestic voice was still being utilised.

                                                                   >>>>> Tributes

“Christopher has been an enormous inspiration to me my entire life. I had the honour and pleasure to work with him on five films (Sleepy Hollow, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows).  He was the last of his kind – a true legend – who I’m fortunate to have called a friend. He will continue to inspire me and I’m sure countless others for generations to come.” – Tim Burton

“Sir Christopher Lee, a wonderful man. A profoundly kind, generous, warm and fascinating man. The consummate gentleman. He was an inspiration in both life and art. In the time we spent together, I had the honor and good fortune of being welcomed into his illustrious proximity. His friendship is one that I will always hold close and dear to my heart. He was the last of his kind. A rare specimen. Hypnotic and commanding, as noble and gallant as he was wise. A brilliant mind with a beautiful heart whose strength of spirit will, in turn, live on in the hearts and minds of many, many generations to come. My eternal respect, love, admiration and thanks to my cherished friend, his family and his dearly beloved Gitte, the woman he worshipped.” – Johnny Depp

 “In every sense, a man of the world; well versed in art, politics, literature, history and science.  Scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvellous actor … There will never be another Christopher Lee, He has a unique place in the history of cinema and in the hearts of millions of fans around the world. The world will be a lesser place without him in it… Rest in peace, Chris. An icon of cinema has passed into legend.” – Peter Jackson

“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.” –  Martin Scorsese.




 Birth year: 1922Death year: 2015Other name: Casting Calls:  42