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Christopher Lee To Be Honored At Festroia


Thursday, June 7-----Even though he has acted in almost 300 films, ranging from comedies to westerns to dramas to sci-fi epics, it is hard to think of Christopher Lee and not instantly conjure up the image of Count Dracula stalking another victim for fresh blood.  In Setubal, Portugal on Saturday evening, Lee will receive the Lifetime Achievement Dolphin Award at Festroia for over 60 years as an iconic actor of the screen, joining such previous luminary winners as Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Lauren Bacall, Alberto Sordi, Dennis Hopper, Michael York and Christopher Walken.

Lee, now aged 85 and a refined gentleman of the old school, appeared at a Press Conference yesterday, slighly scolding the press for typecasting him in the horror genre, which admittedly made his career some 50 years ago. "I tell the press that before they speak with me they should do their homework", Lee said in a slighly chastising tone. "I've worked with some of the top directors in the world, and have played dozens of different kinds of parts. I am not as interested in the past as I am in the present and the future."

That past, which began with a career on the London stage and then bit parts in low budget English films, blossomed at Hammer Studios, the UK independent whose series of horror films starring Lee and fellow thespian Peter Cushing, were major financial and critical successes. He played his signature Dracula role in a series of ghoulish horror films and was one of the go-to actors for playing villians, power hungry maniacs and solemn executioners. "I have enjoyed playing villians and bad eggs", Lee explained. "They are for more interesting characters, and the audience really remembers them."

For Hammer, Lee starred in films that have been modern cult classics, including THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA 1958, THE MUMMY and an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, all co-starring Peter Cushing. Lee continued his role as "Dracula" in a number of Hammer sequels throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. During this time, he made numerous appearances as the oriental villain Fu Manchu, most notably in the first of the series THE FACE OF FU MANCHU. By the mid-1970s, Lee was tiring of his horror image and tried to widen his appeal. He impressed in such films as THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (“the best director I ever worked with…Billy Wilder”), THE THREE MUSKETEERS, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS and the James Bond caper THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.

Ironically, he has had his biggest commercial successes while in his 80s, with appearances in two blockbuster film franchises, playing Count Dooku in George Lucas’ STAR WARS II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES and STARS WARS III: REVENGE OF THE SITH;  and as Saruman the White in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. His affectionate turn as Johnny Depp’s father in Tim Burton’s adaptation of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY has also helped Lee find a whole new generation of fans. “It is a curious thing to find myself at this stage of my career, with fans from 3 to 103”, Lee summed up. “I have been very fortunate to be part of this film industry for almost six decades and still keep working as an actor at projects that stimulate and inspire me.”

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor

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