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The Nazi Hunting Wizard

The following content is from Season 2 Episode 20 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast

RECOMMENDATION SEGMENT

  • This week’s recommendation segment is simple:
    • anything Sir Christopher Lee worked on or inspired.

NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT: Sir Christopher Lee

  • To me and my generation,
    • he was the Sith Lord Count Dooku from Star Wars and the Evil Wizard Saruman from Lord of the Rings.
    • It turns out his real-life story was much more legendary than either of those fictional characters combined.
    • This episode is about Sir Christopher Frank Tarantini Lee.
    • Just as a heads up to the Blog Readers: I use a TON of images for this episode. I just kept finding amazing images of this man.
      • Plus, there were a ton of memes claiming extraordinary facts about him that I wanted to double check.
  • So let us start by going over his Guinness Book of World Records:
    • Most screen credits for a living actor in 2007 after being acknowledged to have appeared in an incredible 244 film and TV movies.
      • When he passed in 2015 the number had gone up to 282 acting credits (according to IMDB)
      • Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of his acting credits.
        • HERE is a list of Lee’s filmography over the years according to Wikipedia
      • Some of his most notable roles:
        • Francisco Scaramanga from James Bond: the Man with the Golden Gun
        • Saruman in The Lord of the Rings series 
        • Frankenstein’s Monster
        • Kharis the mummy in The Mummy 
        • Count Dracula
        • Lord Summerisle in the British mystery movie The Wicker Man
        • the diver Martin Wallace in disaster movie Airport ’77
        • Count Dooku from Star Wars
        • Count de Rochefort in a couple Three Musketeers movies
        • Willy Wonka’s Dad
        • Emperor of China,
        • the Grim Reaper
        • Lucifer
        • Grigory Rasputin
        • Ramses
        • Vlad the Impaler
        • hosted SNL
        •  Russian Commandant Alexandrei Nikolaivich Rakov in Police Academy 7
          • Those are just a small fraction of the roles he played. I picked them because they all sound like really fun roles to play.
    • the Tallest actor in a leading role (a record he would go on to share with Wedding Crashers star Vince Vaughan).
      • Lee was 6’5″
    • most films with a swordfight by an actor
      • having dueled in 17 films with foils, swords, and even billiard cues
      • he’s been in everything from cutlass fights on the decks of waterlogged pirate ships to rapier duels in seventeenth-century France to taking on a couple guys one-third of his age with a lightsabers and a fistful of force lightning on the deck of an Imperial Star Destroyer
    • In 2004 he helped set the record for First spoken dialogue in a massive multiplayer online role playing game after lending his vocal talents to the game Everquest II,
    • he played the role of Diz/Ansem the Wise in Kingdom Hearts to set the record for Oldest videogame voice actor.
      • That same year also saw Lee knighted for services to drama and charity before being awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2011.
    • In 2008, he was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s Most connected actor living after software developed by the University of Virginia that mapped the working relationship between 1,250,000 actors and actresses in the Internet Movie Database determined that Lee was “at the centre of the Hollywood universe”.
      • His networking skills must have been amazing.
  • But even legends have to start out somewhere
    • Lee was born in England during the year 1922.
    • His father was Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Trollope Lee
      • (1879–1941)
      • Lee’s father, was a distant relative of Robert E. Lee and was multi-decorated war hero who’d served as a Colonel in the 60th King’s Royal Rifle Corps during World War I and the Boer War.
    • And his mother, Countess Estelle Marie
      • (née Carandini di Sarzano; 1889–1981)
      • She was an Italian Countess and descendant of Charlamagne
      • One of Lee’s ancestors on that side was the Papal Secretary of State who refused to attend the coronation of Napoleon and is buried in the Pantheon in Rome next to Raphael
      • Her visage was apparently so striking that her portrait was painted by almost a dozen famous Italian painters
    • Lee studied Classics at Wellington College. He was a champion squash player, an amazing fencer, and spent his spare time playing on the school hockey and rugby.
    • In 1939 Lee quit his job as a desk clerk to enlist in the Finnish Army against the Soviet invasion of Finland. He didn’t see much combat by the time he returned to England in 1940, but this means he did technically fight in the WINTER WAR.
    • When Lee did return to England it was to Enlist in the Royal Air Force to fight against the Nazis.
      • He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940 and trained with de Havilland Tiger Moths. Just before he was to have his first solo flight, he was diagnosed with a failure of his optic nerve that caused him headaches and blurred vision. Devastated, he was told he would never fly again. But that wasn’t the end of his military career, far from it…
      • He became an intelligence officer in WW2 and was shipped out to North Africa to join the Long Range Desert Patrol (later known as the British SAS)
        • If you have any knowledge of military powers of the world, or have seen a few movies, or even played a Call of Duty game, you know the SAS are some hardcore warriors.
          • Bear Grylls was in the SAS
          • and Christopher Lee was in LRDP the group that came before the SAS
        • Although Christopher Lee himself seldom spoke about his time in the military, history shows that the LRDP were some of the most elite soldiers in WW2.
        • While in Africa they took convoys hundreds of miles behind enemy lines (braving the formidable Sahara Desert) to sabotage Nazi Luftwaffe airfields with espionage, quick precise attacks, and of course… explosives. The unit Christopher Lee fought in (Long Range Desert Patrol) was very effective.
        • After his time in the LRDP, Lee became a Special Operations Executive. This would later be known as Winston Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (it almost sounds like the British were saying “sorry, not sorry” about being on the winning side of WW2.
          • These Special Operations Executives lead small team assaults on Germany’s top secret nuclear weapons sites in Norway.
          • They worked with Eastern European rebel forces to destroy Nazi supply lines that would have given them a chance to defeat the Soviets.
    • Later in the 2000’s Lee was asked by a reporter about his time in the military. Lee (6’5″ legendary war veteran famous for playing some of the most terrifying roles in cinematic history) stopped dead in his tracks, turned to face the reporter and gestured for him to come closer. … This man has played DEATH and he his now focusing all his attention on this reporter that is about half his height.
      • Lee asked “can you keep a secret?”
      • to Which the reporter eagerly said “YES!” Expecting Lee to finally open up about his combat experience.
      • At this Lee leaned down and whispered in his ear “so can I,” and just walked out the room.
    • Records show that when Lee retired from the Military as a Flight Lieutenant in 1945 he was personally decorated for battlefield bravery by the Yugoslavian, Czech, Polish, and English governments. He was also good friends with the Former President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Josip Broz.
  • After the war, Lee started his long career of acting in 1948.
    • Nearly 10 years later in 1957 Lee got his first big hit “The Curse of Frankenstein” where he played Frankenstein’s Monster.
    • In 1958 he played one of his most iconic roles in Dracula, playing Count Dracula.
    • In 1959 he played the Mummy Kharis in the movie The Mummy
    • Then in 1974 Lee played Francisco Scaramanga, the main villian from James Bond The Man with the Golden Gun
Lee looks cooler than cool.
  • Even though he played the villian… Christopher Lee WAS James Bond.
    • Although Lee didn’t get an official credit for inspiring the character, Ian Fleming (coincidentally, Lee’s step-cousin), has admitted that Lee’s days as a spy are what inspired him to create the ultimate super-spy, James Bond
    • Ian Fleming and Lee fought together in the SOE (Special Operations Executives) during WWII.
      • … he WAS James Bond
  • Lee was obsessed with Lord of the Rings
    • Out of the entire cast of the Lord of the Rings movies, only Lee met the Author J.R.R. Tolkien.
      • In a 2010 interview with Cinefantastique, Lee described meeting Tolkien “quite by chance.”
      • “I met him with a group of other people in a pub in Oxford he used to go to, The Eagle and Child,” he said. “I was very much in awe of him, as you can imagine, so I just said, ‘How do you do?'”
    • Because he was a massive fan of the books (quote: “greatest literary achievement in my lifetime.”), Lee was determined to be involved in any screen adaptation.
      • So in the 90’s he started trying out for other Wizard roles.
      • By 1997, he landed the role of wizard Olwyn in the TV series The New Adventures of Robin Hood.
      • When he heard Peter Jackson was making the now-famous Lord of the Rings films, Lee sent him a picture of himself dressed as a Wizard (robes and all) with a note saying “This is what I look like as a Wizard, don’t forget this when you cast the movie.”
        • I love this story because it humanizes Lee and makes you realize he had weird quirks like being a MASSIVE Tolkien fanboy.
  • I’m just imagining these two terrors of cinema giggling together like school boys at slapstick comedy in the form of Looney Toons.
Imagine being so cool you turn down Swedish Royalty. I’ve met Swedish women and they are DROP DEAD GORGEOUS!
  • Lee’s Music Career
    • Going back to Lee’s collegiate education on the classics, he was a classically trained vocalist.
    • When he was 88 years old he came out with an album about his ancestor Charlemagne called “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross”
    • He played with Manowar and Rhapsody.
    • His single “Let Legend Mark Me as the King” was written by some Judas Priest band members.
Aside from the content of his words, I am in awe by HOW he speaks.
I had to include an image of Count Dooku
  • Miscellaneous Accolades
    • Oh, Lee’s also a master at golf being the only actor to be a member of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the most prestigious country club in the world.
    • He was married to Birgit Kroencke (a Danish Supermodel for 54 years.
    • He was a Commander of the Order of St. John’s of Jerusalem
      • The Order of St John, short for Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem and also known as St John International, is a British royal order of chivalry constituted in 1888 by royal charter from Queen Victoria and dedicated to St John the Baptist.
    • Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire
    • Received the the World Award’s lifetime achievement award presented to him by Mikhail Gorbachev in 2003
    • Also was awarded the Unicef Award of 2012 and the Cinema For Peace Award in 2014, which he received from Angelina Jolie
Order of Saint John
  • His characters have executed both Charles the First of England and Louis the Sixteenth of France.
  • He’s portrayed Englishmen, Egyptians, Spaniards, Transylvanians, Frenchmen, Greeks, Poles, Chinese, Indians, Italians, Wallachians, Romans, Germans, Arabs, Gypsies, and Russians, played the lead role in the biography of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
  • He speaks English, German, Russian, Swedish, Italian, and French, can do any English accent he wants, and sings everything from opera and death metal in a hardcore bass voice.
    • Lee’s movies have grossed more than any actor ever – his top five alone grossed $4.4B
    • he filmed every single scene in Star Wars 3 in a single day
    • he’s never received a Best Actor nomination BUT he’s been in 4 movies nominated for Best Picture
    • Lee belonged to three stuntman unions and did all of his own stunts.
      • He even has cool stunt injury stories
        • He once busted his face smashing head-first through an actual plate glass window for a scene.
        • He injured himself falling into an open grave while portraying Dracula, and once had his hand slashed open during a drunken sword fight with Golden Hollywood Era star Errol Flynn.
  • He was a living legend
    • You might point to his incredibly impressive ancestry or perhaps his military training, but after learning about his life you have to realize he was different from most people in a spectacular way.
    • I would have loved to have met him, maybe have a glass of brandy with the man.

CREDIT

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