Christopher Lee’s life – famous niece, heavy metal career and £20m net worth

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Generations of fans grew up terrified of Sir Christopher Lee's performance as Dracula in the cult Hammer House films that made stars of him and fellow actor Peter Cushing.

With his tall stature, steely-eyed stare and poise, Christopher Lee became one of film's most iconic horror actors, but before Dracula, he was part of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and in recent years, also launched a career in heavy metal music.

Born in Belgravia, London on May 22 1922 to a military father and aristocratic mother, Christopher attended Wellington College, before working as an office clerk, and in 1941, enlisted in the Royal Air Force.

However, after completing military service with the RAF, he took his first steps in the world of acting and a silver screen legend was born – along with a lifetime friendship with another horror legend, Peter Cushing.

Their paths seemed destined to cross, after being given parts in the same films including Corridor of Mirrors in 1948 and 1952's Moulin Rouge, but did not meet or share any screen time together while working on these productions.

However, their bond was cemented after the two actors starred opposite each other in Hammer House's landmark film The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, with Cushing playing Dr Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee playing The Creature.

Peter Cushing even appeared on an episode of This is Your Life about Christopher Lee, and when Cushing died of cancer in 1995, Christopher was the first person who was called.

Together they worked on 21 productions, including The Mummy, Hound of the Baskervilles and The Skull, but most notably 1958's Dracula, which became one of Christopher Lee's signature roles.

Christopher played Dracula opposite Cushing's Van Helsing, starring in the role a further seven times in films including Dracula: Prince of Darkness opposite Captain Scarlet actor Frances Matthews and The Scars of Dracula, opposite Patrick Troughton and Dennis Waterman.

Talking to The Guardian about working on Hammer House productions, he said, "Hammer was an important part of my life, and generally speaking, we all had a lot of fun," with Lee saying "I pleaded with Hammer to let me use some of the lines that Bram Stoker had written" for Dracula and that "Occasionally, I sneaked one in".

However, he admitted that "all hell broke loose" when he said that he was not going to play the role anymore.

After Dracula, Lee continued to work in horror movies including the cult classic The Wicker Man but moved into other film genres including playing Bond villain Scaramanga in 1974's Man with the Golden Gun.

He also revealed that he turned down roles in 1978's John Carpenter film Halloween and also the comedy Airplane! which he said that he later regretted.

In the nineties he built a bond with another horror director, Tim Burton, working on films including Dark Shadows, Sleepy Hollow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but in the noughties, he would play yet another defining character – Saruman.

New generations of fans were introduced to Christopher Lee as the villainous wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's award-winning trilogy The Lord of the Rings, as well as his work as Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels.

However, outside of acting, Christopher Lee had another passion, music, and surprised everyone by releasing a heavy metal album, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, in 2010.

The legendary actor even won a Spirit of Metal Award at the Metal Hammer 2010 awards event and went on to release a 2013 single called Jingle Hell, which entered the Billboard top 100.

In the same year, he told The Guardian that he has a few interests including music and also writing books, but that his one passion was always acting, saying "acting is what keeps me going, it’s what I do, it gives life purpose."

Although quiet about his private life, Christopher Lee was married to his wife and former model Birgit Kroencke, with who he had one daughter called Christina.

He is also the uncle of huge UK actress Dame Harriet Walter, who appeared in films such as Sense and Sensibility and Atonement, as well as a successful stage career.

One of her most recent TV appearances was as fearsome Russian gymnastic coach Dasha in Killing Eve.

She is also returning to hit the US series Succession Lady Caroline Collingwood after first appearing in 2018.

Christopher was also knighted in 2014 for his services to drama and charity and was also awarded a BAFTA fellowship in 2011.

The legendary horror actor died aged 93 on June 7 2015 after being hospitalised for heart failure and respiratory problems.

According to Celeb Net Worth, Christopher had a fortune of £18m ($25m) at the time of his death after his lengthy acting career.

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