Christopher Lee, a British actor of aristocratic bearing and dark features who sustained one of the longest and most prolific screen-villain careers of all time, playing depraved bloodsuckers such as Dracula, a deformed James Bond nemesis and powerful creeps in the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” series, died June 7 at a hospital in London. He was 93.
The Associated Press cited a London official saying a death certificate was issued the day after Mr. Lee died. A statement e-mailed to the Reuters news agency from Mr. Lee’s agent said his family “wishes to make no comment.” The cause was respiratory and heart ailments, British news media accounts report.
In a career spanning more than 250 movies and TV shows over nearly seven decades — most in unsavory roles — Mr. Lee said he tried to “make the unbelievable believable,” to humanize the most macabre characters. At 6-foot-4, with a dignified air, he presented refined, even suave portraits of evil.
His film career began in the late 1940s, but he was told by casting agents that he was “too tall and foreign-looking” to play Englishmen. The result was bit roles, including a spear carrier in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 screen version of “Hamlet” and a succession of pirates, Nazis, Spaniards and Arabs — the movie bad guys of the day.
Mr. Lee had better luck in horror movies, particularly at Britain’s Hammer Films, which pumped out sexed-up scare flicks. His specialty became Dracula, the fang-toothed, blood-savoring Transylvanian nobleman — a role he resurrected often.
“Horror of Dracula” in 1958 led to “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” (1966). From there, it was quickly downward to “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,” “Taste the Blood of Dracula,” “Scars of Dracula,” “Dracula A.D. 1972,” “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” and “Dracula and Son.”
Mr. Lee also played Frankenstein’s creature (“The Curse of Frankenstein,” 1957), Rasputin (“Rasputin: The Mad Monk,” 1966) and the criminal fiend Fu Manchu (in a series of 1960s films starting with “The Face of Fu Manchu”).
His other efforts bore titles such as “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” (1967) — loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” — and “The Creeping Flesh” (1973). Many co-starred Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing.
Periodically, Mr. Lee had some mainstream luck. He won roles as Sherlock Holmes’s elder brother, Mycroft, in director Billy Wilder’s “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970), the pagan leader Lord Summerisle in “The Wicker Man” (1973) and the eyepatch-sporting Comte de Rochefort in director Richard Lester’s “The Three Musketeers” (1973), “The Four Musketeers” (1974) and “The Return of the Musketeers” (1989).
He also made an impression as the three-nippled assassin Scaramanga in “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974) opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond. New York Times film critic Nora Sayre spotlighted Mr. Lee — along with Hervé Villechaize — for their “sinister vitality that cuts through the narrative dough.”
Mr. Lee appeared as a German officer in Steven Spielberg’s wartime period comedy “1941” (1979) and won plaudits in “Serial” (1980) portraying a business executive with an second life as a character named Skull, the head of a gay biker gang.
Mr. Lee slipped back and forth between genre pictures such as the Chuck Norris actioner “An Eye for an Eye” (1981) and the ABC-TV film “Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story” (1982) as Prince Philip. Washington Post television critic Tom Shales praised Mr. Lee for bringing “debonair gusto” to the role of the prince.
On it went, crisscrossing “Howling II: . . . Your Sister Is a Werewolf” (1985) with slightly more upscale projects such as director Joe Dante’s “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990), in which he played a character called Doctor Catheter.
As the years passed and other actors of his generation retired, Mr. Lee declared that, as a “working actor,” he never would. A younger coterie of filmmakers — including Spielberg, George Lucas and Tim Burton — had grown up on the Hammer films and were eager to hire him.
Burton cast Mr. Lee as the Burgomaster in “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) and as Willy Wonka’s dentist father in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005). Lucas tapped him to play Count Dooku in several installments of “Star Wars,” starting with “Episode II — Attack of the Clones” (2002). He also was the dark wizard Saruman in director Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy throughout the 2000s.
“Christopher has a certain persona,” Lucas once told the New York Times. “You wouldn’t cast him in a remake of ‘Father Knows Best.’ He’s formidable.”
Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was born in London on May 27, 1922. He said that his father was a British army commander and that his mother was an Italian countess.
Mr. Lee was raised by his mother and stepfather, a banker whose heavy drinking led to financial reversals. On scholarship, he excelled in the classics while attending preparatory schools and also participated in student dramatic productions.
During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force and also did intelligence work, but he dismissed reports over the years that he was a spy. To demonstrate, he once stood ramrod straight before a British interviewer with his full height on display and asked, “Do you consider that I would blend inconspicuously into a crowd?”
A well-connected cousin smoothed Mr. Lee’s entry into the movie business after the war.
In 1961, he married a Danish fashion model, Birgit Kroencke, and they had a daughter, Christina. Besides his wife, a complete list of survivors could not be immediately confirmed.
Mr. Lee repeatedly made forays into ventures that tried to showcase his versatility. Not all succeeded — he was persona non grata in Pakistan after his portrayal of that country’s founding father in “Jinnah” (1998); violent protests erupted not only because he was British, but also because of his long association with monster films.
In recent years, Mr. Lee sang a heavy-metal version of “My Way” and other songs with an Italian band called Rhapsody of Fire and recorded an album of “operatic” heavy-metal covers of Christmas carols.
Mr. Lee wrote a memoir, “Tall, Dark and Gruesome” (1977), and received a knighthood in 2009 for his long career and charitable work. At times, he embraced jokes at his expense, including his reputation for accepting nearly any role, no matter how dubious the quality.
As a host of “Saturday Night Live” in 1978, Mr. Lee appeared in a skit about coming attractions for movies so bad that even he had turned them down. Among the titles: “The Creature from the Black Studies Program,” “Dr. Terror’s House of Pancakes” and “The Island of Lost Luggage.”