Veteran actor Christopher Lee, renowned for larger-than-life film roles ranging from Count Dracula to Saruman to Francisco Scaramanga, passed away Sunday after being hospitalized for respiratory problems and heart failure. He was 93.
According to The Guardian, the announcement of his death was delayed based on the wishes of his wife Birgit Krøncke to inform family members first.
Lee, who was knighted in 2009, made his movie debut in the 1947 British drama "Corridor of Mirrors," but his career didn't really take off until he began his long relationship with Hammer Films a decade later in "The Curse of Frankenstein," playing the Monster opposite Peter Cushing's Victor Frankenstein. (The two went on to become close friends, and appeared together in more than 20 films.) A year later, Lee debuted in his most famous role, that of Count Dracula, a character he revisited nine more times over his career.
A prolific actor, Lee's lengthy list of credits -- more than 270, according to IMDb -- spans seven decades, although he considered the 1973 horror thriller "The Wicker Man" to be his best. Few fans would argue.
However, he didn't limit himself to horror, moving from playing Sherlock Holmes to the Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga in "The Man With the Golden Gun" to diver Martin Wallace in "Airport '77."
Lee began a long collaborative relationship with Tim Burton in 1999 with "Sleepy Hollow" (they worked together another four times, most recently in "Dark Shadows"), just as the actor's career experienced a resurgence with his casting as the wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and then as Count Dooku in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith." Lee returned to the role of Saruman in Jackson's three-movie "Hobbit" adaptation.
Lee is survived by his wife of 50 years and their daughter.