Dracula AD 1972 - Christopher Lee
Dracula AD 1972 - Dracula (Christopher Lee) ©1972 Hammer/ Warner Bros

Sir Christopher Lee, famous for roles in Hammer Horror films and Lord of the Rings, has died in hospital after suffering heart and respiratory problems.

The screen legend was know for his roles in films from Dracula, The Wicker Man, James Bond, Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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The English-born actor, who made his name playing Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster in the Hammer horror films, lived in Switzerland and in California for many years but eventually returned to his native England.

He passed away at 8:30am on Sunday morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London although his death has just been announced.

In a 2001 article in Shivers magazine writer Jonathan Rigby wrote, “Lee was aware that the impact of Dracula had been so great it had left casting directors in just as much of a quandary about how best to ‘play’ him as they had been when he was unknown. How do you follow a 500-year-old vampire Count? One answer was, of course, ‘With another vampire Count’.

Jonathan Rigby continued, “Lee resisted reprising Dracula himself until 1965, but when offered an Italian comedy in the spring of 1959 called Tempi duri per i vampiri (Hard Times for Vampires) he saw no harm in accepting, provided that his character was clearly signposted as Baron Roderigo de Braumfürten. The film is significant not only as an indication that Lee’s vampire persona could retain its demonic power even in a lighthearted context, but also as a forerunner of Lee’s prolific Continental engagements during the 1960s.

Christopher Lee often said that he identified with Count Dracula, because they were both embarrassments to an aristocratic family. In Lord of Misrule, he expressed sympathy for his famous horror characters.

“In my mind Dracula, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster are driven figures, unable to help themselves, eventually out of control like a runaway train,” he wrote, “and consequently very much alone.”

His last film Angels in Notting Hill, where he plays The Boss – Mr President, was completed last year but currently there is no announced release date.

He was set to be in The 11th for a 2016 release. This is still in preproduction so his role of Lars Ole Hansen will obviously be recast. Just who could really step into his shoes? Christopher Lee was a real screen legend.