Christopher Lee: Way More Hard-Tack Than Saruman

Sir Christopher Lee was one of the most badass Brits (and just people, generally) to ever live. Seriously, even the ludicrous Steven Seagal probably couldn't keep up with Lee's intensity. In his long life (all 93 years), he accomplished more than most of us can even dream of doing. He has more screen credits to his name than any actor ever. He was born into an impressive family of noble background, and was part of some top secret missions during WWII. Yep, he's more 007 than Sean Connery will ever be. His wartime involvement resulted in some pretty crazy stories.  Like, Teddy Roosevelt level of crazy. Yet despite his numerous talents, Lee dedicated his life to acting.

He’s mostly known for playing some seriously hardcore roles, like Dracula and Saruman from The Lord of the Rings. His resounding voice could make you tremble, which is probably why he played villains so often. He also lent that voice to his music career (which lasted for way longer than you'd think).

He lived through and participated in some of the most poignant events of the past century. You can bet that this international man of badassery has some pretty crazy stories.


  • He Holds Three Guinness World Records

    He Holds Three Guinness World Records
    Photo: Danacea / Wikimedia Commons

    Christopher Lee did not like to sit idle. He once said, “I want to die with my boots on,” and he did just that (well, metaphorically anyway). The actor died in 2015, just a couple of months before he was going to start his gazillionth film. In 2007, Guinness World Records honored him with the title of most screen credits held by any living actor, with 244 credits under his belt. Since 2007, he added 24 more credits to that list.

    But that’s not his only world record. He also holds the title for being the tallest leading actor in history, standing at 6’5’’. Later, Vince Vaughan went on to share that title with him. Lee also holds the title of most films with a swordfight by an actor, having dueled in 17 films. Of course, this includes his lightsaber fights as Count Dooku in Star Wars.

  • Christopher Lee Had An Impressive (And Top Secret) Military Career

    Christopher Lee Had An Impressive (And Top Secret) Military Career
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Christopher Lee kicked some serious Nazi ass during WWII. In the beginning of the war, Lee helped out the Finnish by fighting against the Russians in 1939. When the British officially joined the war, Lee worked for the Special Air Service (SAS), and ran top secret missions. He fought in North Africa and then later moved on to Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) and hunted Nazi criminals throughout Europe and liberated camps.

    “I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in the Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like,” Lee said. So, uh, that's unspeakably cool. The details of Lee’s participation in the Special Forces is still classified. He's more James Bond than actual James Bond.

    The name is Lee, Christopher Lee. 

  • He's Related To Charlemagne And Robert E. Lee

    He's Related To Charlemagne And Robert E. Lee
    Video: YouTube

    Christopher Lee has a pretty impressive family tree. Lee’s mother was an Italian countess and famous beauty who modeled for a handful of prominent painters and sculptors. Through her, Lee could trace his lineage all the way back to King Charlemagne. Lee’s family even bears Charlemagne’s coat of arms.

    Lee was also a distant relative of another famous man: American Civil War general Robert E. Lee. As if his family tree needed to get any cooler, Lee is also a step-cousin of Ian Fleming. Lee’s mother divorced his father and remarried Harcourt George St. Croix Rose, Fleming’s uncle. Lee would later work with Fleming on the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun.

  • He Saw France's Last Public Execution

    He Saw France's Last Public Execution
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Christopher Lee had a taste for the macabre, even before his days of playing monsters. In 1939, Lee found himself in France after his stepfather went bankrupt and could no longer afford Lee’s expensive private school. So what does a 17 year old do on a nice summer day in France? Attend a public execution.

    On June 17, a man accused of multiple homicides, Eugen Weidmann, became the last man to be publicly executed in France. And, because everything in Lee's life was metal, the dude was f*cking guillotined. Insanely, you can watch the execution on YouTube (if that's the sort of thing you're interested in watching).

    Lee witnessing the execution must have stirred up a deep interest with him on the subject matter. He ended up studying the history of public executions and he knew the names of every public executioner in England, dating back to the 15th century.

  • He Knows What Stabbing Sounds Like

    He Knows What Stabbing Sounds Like
    Video: YouTube

    After his notable (and top-secret) military career, Lee saw a lot of the atrocities that went along with WWII. “When the Second World War finished I was 23 and already I had seen enough horror to last me a lifetime. I’d seen dreadful, dreadful things, without saying a word. So seeing horror depicted on film doesn’t affect me much,” he said in an interview

    That being said, he’s much more acquainted with death than your regular actor. When Lee was filming Return of the King, he actually schooled director Peter Jackson on what happens to a person when they are stabbed in the back. Jackson wanted Lee’s character Saruman to cry out in pain when he was stabbed in the scene above. But then Lee turned to Jackson and asked, “Have you any idea what kind of noise happens when somebody is stabbed in the back? Because I do.” The person does not cry out at all, because they are physically unable to. As Lee explained, when a person is stabbed in the back “the breath is driven out of the body.”

    So that’s why, if you watch the scene above, Saruman is gasping for air when Grima Wormtongue stabs him in the back.  

  • Christopher Lee Could Have Been An Opera Singer If He Wanted

    Christopher Lee Could Have Been An Opera Singer If He Wanted
    Video: YouTube

    Lee was a very gifted singer, with a powerful voice that was on par with some of the world’s best tenors. In fact, it's likely he could have pursued a career in opera if he had continued his training. See, Lee’s family has a background in opera.

    His grandparents actually opened up the first opera company in Australia. He was invited to join the opera house by world famous tenor Jussi Bjorling. Bjorling even wanted to take young Lee under his wing and train him personally because he saw so much potential in him.