I think it was around the early 2000s that I first became aware of this ginormous British fellow, who struck an Imposing with a capital “I” screen presence and spoke with an icy elegance that seemed impossible even for one of those artsy English thespians. It’s not like I couldn’t ignore him even if I wanted to, because for a few years back then, Lee was suddenly everywhere. Or at least, he was everywhere I was looking.
There he was in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, imprisoning Gandalf at the top of Orthanc and raising an army in the depths of Isengard. Then he was in the “Star Wars” galaxy, trying to tempt Obi-Wan to the Dark Side and fighting with a curved hilt lightsaber, because of course a Sith lord played by Lee would have one of those. And then, during one of my annual James Bond marathons, there he was again: challenging Roger Moore’s 007 to a duel as “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Such was Lee’s talent that he managed to give the franchise one of its greatest villains while starring in one of the (arguably) worst films in the entire Bond saga. He was that good.
Of course, Lee already had lived a pretty damned impressive life even before he stepped in front of a camera. During World War II, he was a member of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), which was also – I kid not – known by the name “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” The SOE carried out acts of espionage, sabotage, assassination and generally raised hell throughout mainland Europe disrupting the Nazi war machine. In case all of that wasn’t cool enough, these guys are also the reason why the Nazis never got their hands on nuclear weapons.
Given this guy’s staggeringly huge resume, both within and outside of his 250 plus credited film roles, there’s not really much I can say about this spy-turned-actor turned-metal vocalist (see the above video) that would really do him any justice, but…(*sigh*) they don’t make ’em like they used to.