Today, Lee is the world record holder for most acting roles in films ever - 274 credits - and still counting. In tribute to the great man, here are 10 interesting facts about Christopher Lee and his extraordinary life:
01: Though almost constantly working, a noteable role Lee did turn down was the doctor role in Airplane – the one that would make Leslie Nielson a superstar.
02: Lee was the first person to enter the Vatican Museum after the end of the second of the world war.
03: As a teenager, Lee was a witness at the execution of Eugen Weidmann – the last man to be publicly executed in France by guillotine. Later in life, Lee would also became friends with Albert Pierrepoint – the so-called ‘Last Hangman’ of England. Lee would occasionally drink at his pub.
04: For several years, Lee’s next-door neighbour was Boris Karloff.
05: As a child, Lee’s parents introduced him to Felix Yusupov and Dmitri Pavlovich - the killers of Rasputin. Years later, in 1966, Lee appeared as Rasputin in Rasputin the Mad Monk. Years even later than that, Lee was asked to meet Rasputin’s daughter, who confided to him that he looked uncannily like the mad monk (it was the eyes!).
06: While doing publicity for The Man with the Golden Gun, the Golden Gun was taken off Lee and impounded by US customs.
07: Author Mervyn Peake was a friend of Lee’s sister, and occasionally Lee would meet and talk with Peake in Harrod’s Library. Decades later Lee would appear in the BBC adaptation of Peake’s Gormenghast.
08: After the war, Lee was once propositioned by a rent-boy. He was so shocked he inadvertently pushed the man through a window.
09: While filming a sword fight with Errol Flynn for The Dark Avenger, Flynn almost cut off Lee’s little finger, forever scarring and misshaping it. Years later, a rematch was filmed for Flynn’s TV show. Flynn was supposed to duck while Lee took a swing at him. The swing would go over his head, while lopping the tops off the candles on a candelabra standing behind Flynn. Lee managed the extremely difficult manoeuvre, successfully chopping the candles down. Unfortunately, he also took Flynn’s wig off his head. Flynn walked silently off set. It took over half-an-hour to persuade him it had not been deliberate.
10: Muhammad Ali insisted on meeting Lee, declaring “it really is you, I never thought I’d get to meet you!” He promised Lee Chuck Wepner’s scalp at the upcoming Heavyweight Championship bout. After winning the fight, Ali was asked if he had a message for his fans, he said: “ I won this for them, and for Christopher Lee”. Lee was watching the fights at Hugh Hefner's home alongside such luminaries as porn star Linda Lovelace and OJ Simpson.