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Friday, 15 June, 2001, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Christopher Lee: Horrors and triumphs
Christopher Lee
Lee played various villainous Hammer roles
Christopher Lee holds the world record for playing the most screen appearances of any actor - and 54 years into his career, it is not hard to believe.

London-born Lee, who has been made a CBE, is best-known for playing monstrous roles opposite Peter Cushing in the Hammer horror films, but has about 250 other screen appearances to his name.

Lee in Gormenghast
Lee in the BBC's award-winning Gormenghast
And more are in the pipeline - roles in the forthcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star Wars: Episode II are about to introduce him to a new generation.

After being decorated for distinguished service as a Flight Lieutenant in World War II, Lee, now 79, became a professional actor in 1947.

He made his name 10 years later when he starred in his first Hammer film, as the monster in Curse of Frankenstein.

His 6ft 5in frame and pointed features have always typecast him as a bad guy, and villainous roles in further Hammer productions including Horror of Dracula, The Mummy and The Gorgon followed.

Lee's distant cousin Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, wanted him to play Dr No in the film of the same name - but that role went to Joseph Wiseman.

Lee eventually starred as Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Dracula poster
Lee says his blood-sucking days are over
But he has also demonstrated his versatility in comedies like 1941 and Gremlins 2, and it is reported that he says the highlight of his career was as a guest host for TV's Saturday Night Live.

Other famous roles have been in films including 1959's The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Three Musketeers (1973), Jinnah (1997) and as Flay in last year's BBC TV mini-series Gormenghast.

He was reportedly asked to star as Dracula in new films made by a resurrected Hammer - but says his blood-drinking days are over.

"I've appeared in so many films that were ahead of their time - some of them were very good," Lee told BBC News Online.

"Some weren't," he added with a smile.


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