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Last Updated: Friday, 14 November, 2003, 17:47 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Christopher Lee (main picture), with Andrew Flintoff, Margaret Hodge, Canaan Banana and Jenny Seagrove (clockwise from top left)

Christopher Lee
The veteran actor Christopher Lee, more used to dealing out horrific punishments in a host of horror movies, has himself been given the chop, from the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King. Despite this setback, the 81 year-old Lee remains very much in demand.

With more than 200 credits to his name Christopher Lee's track record is one for which any aspiring star would kill.

Lee's first experience of acting came as a child, playing Rumpelstiltskin. Since then, Lee has become the face of many other grotesques and villains: Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Fu Manchu, Scaramanga - the Man with the Golden Gun - and, most recently, Saruman, Tolkien's good wizard gone bad.

Beside these roles, he has also enjoyed notable roles in Star Wars, Richard Lester's Three Musketeers and the pagan-tinged thriller, The Wicker Man.

Once described as "tall, dark and gruesome" - he stands six-foot-five - Christopher Lee was born in London 1922. His background is aristocratic, if not regal: his mother was an Italian contessa and he can claim direct lineage from Charlemagne.

His great grandparents formed Australia's first opera company, performing before miners in towns in the outback: Lee has inherited a powerful operatic voice.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was a cousin. Indeed. Fleming wanted Lee, and not Joseph Wiseman, to play the first Bond film villain, Dr No.

Educated at Wellington College, Christopher Lee served in the Royal Air Force and intelligence during World War II before becoming a professional actor with the Rank organisation.

Lee hated his time at Rank: "They said I was too tall to be an actor and too foreign looking. It's like saying that you've got red hair so you can't play the piano," he recently told one interviewer.

But, despite bit parts in films like Cockleshell Heroes and Ill Met By Moonlight, it was his role as the Creature in Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein which brought Lee stardom.

Christopher Lee as Count Dracula
Christopher Lee thrilled as Count Dracula
Looking, as he has said, like the victim of a car accident, his portrayal of the monster was more than the mere cipher which audiences had come to expect. It was rounded and subtle: as much touching as frightening.

Lee takes a singular view of all his evil or monstrous roles. "With all these characters, I always look for one particular element that runs through them all, and that is a kind of sadness."

Through the years, Christopher Lee has found himself typecast. "I was always playing the baddie, I realized that this was not a good idea, because I possess a degree of versatility that an actor must have, and I wanted to get an opportunity to show that."

To this end he starred in Jinnah, a lavishly-produced biopic of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

A counter to the unsympathetic portrayal Jinnah is said to have received in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, Lee says that it is his finest performance.

But Jinnah has received little publicity outside Muslim countries, much to Lee's regret. Today, it is his portrayal of Saruman which is being kept off the screen. A seven minute scene, almost word-for-word Tolkien, has been cut from The Return of the King.

Lee says he is shocked. Many Tolkien fans are outraged. But, with four films currently in production, Christopher Lee shows no sign of slowing down.

Knocking the opposition for six: Freddie Flintoff
Andrew Flintoff
The England cricketer, Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff, has been confirmed as the world's leading all-rounder. Three superb one-day performances ended England's first tour of Bangladesh, earning Flintoff three successive man-of-the-match awards. His most recent innings brought him an unbeaten 52 off just 39 balls. Following his summer heroics against South Africa, Flintoff has now passed Ian Botham's record number of 44 sixes in one day internationals. Could the spirit of Beefy be about to return to the long-suffering England squad?

Margaret Hodge: Apology
Margaret Hodge
The Children's Minister, Margaret Hodge, has apologised "unreservedly" after describing a child sex abuse victim as "extremely disturbed". Mrs Hodge made the claim in a letter of complaint to the BBC, after a report on a child abuse scandal in Islington in North London when she was its council leader in the 1980s. But Demetrious Panton, abused by the head of an Islington children's home a decade earlier, had threatened Mrs Hodge with legal action.

Canaan Banana dies in London
Canaan Banana
The first president of Zimbabwe, Canaan Banana, has died in a London hospital aged 67. Banana served as head of state from 1980 to 1987 and jokes about his name were banned. After he left office, he was convicted of sodomy and indecent assault and spent two years in jail. Banana played a key role in the fight against white rule in colonial Rhodesia prior to its becoming independent Zimbabwe in 1980.

Kava-kava lover: Jenny Seagrove
Jenny Seagrove
Film director Michael Winner's former squeeze, the actress Jenny Seagrove, has gone to London's High Court in an attempt to overthrow the ban on one of her favourite herbal medicines. She swears by kava-kava, an ancient Polynesian remedy, used to promote relaxation, good sleep and treat depression. In January, kava-kava was banned in response to suggestions it damages the liver.

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