I just read of Sir Christopher Lee’s passing at the age of 93. Of course, I did not know him personally, but even so I can’t help but feel a bit melancholy. By all accounts, Sir Christopher lead an exciting and successful life and lived to a venerable age, so there is, perhaps, less reason to mourn. He fought for the Finns in the Winter War against the Soviets, and then later joined the RAF, where he flew bombing missions in North Africa and Italy, and also worked in intelligence. He was one of the highest grossing actors of all time. He was step-cousin to Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, as well as the only cast member of the Lord of the Rings films to have met J.R.R. Tolkien. All these things and many more you will undoubtedly learn from the news reports and his obituary, so I will not belabor them. Instead let me offer some praise you are less likely to hear in the news media and talk a bit about my own personal interest in the man.
Let me start by saying that Sir Christopher Lee was not the sort of actor you are used to hearing about in Hollywood. Besides being a man of action in real life in addition to the silver screen, he was a man of some considerable dignity and honor. He was a classical scholar descended from ancient nobility and enjoyed a cosmopolitan youth. After going to absurd lengths to secure the approval of his first fiancee’s father (including obtaining a blessing from the King of Sweden!), he called off the wedding so that she would not suffer financial insecurity as the wife of an actor. In 1961, he finally did marry–and stayed that way for the rest of his life. Although he was falsely alleged to have a vast store of occult knowledge (likely due to his association with horror movies), he admonished university students not to toy with black magic, saying, “You will not only lose your mind, you’ll lose your soul.”
His supposed association with the occult likely stems from his fame as a horror movie actor. Like most people, this is the only capacity in which I can really say I know the man. Truly, he was one of the great villain actors of all time, playing, among others, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, pagan tyrant Lord Summerisle, international assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the renegade Jedi Count Dooku, and, of course, the fallen wizard Saruman. The memorable pageant of on-screen villainy compelled us to pay homage to him in the Ascension Epoch.
When Shell and I decided that only the late Peter Cushing could serve as appropriate visual inspiration for The Promethean, it was only appropriate that we pay the same honor to Lee as the visual inspiration for Dr. Mirabilis. On screen, Cushing and Lee were often cast as enemies, but in real life they were the closest of friends. So it was between the Promethean and Dr. Mirabilis: Marius Brezeanu was a precocious street urchin rescued by the Promethean and tutored in his secret knowledge of alchemy and technomancy. The two shared a close kinship for years, with Brezeanu following in his adoptive father’s heroic footsteps, eventually adopting the alias Dr. Mirabilis during the Martian War. After the war, they grew apart and eventually become the deadliest of foes. In a twist on his real-life inspiration, Dr. Mirabilis, instead of being a vampire lord, slaughtered the undead mercilessly and so instigated a global war.
In real life, Lee claimed descent from Charlemagne (and played him in a rock opera), and Wikipedia reports that he was also a distant relative of the superb and honorable General Robert E. Lee. In Ascension Epoch terms, this would also make Sir Christopher a relative of John Carter and the Fighting Yank. What a happy coincidence!
A couple of years ago as we were fleshing out the Promethean and the Challenger Foundation, Shell bought me a biography of Peter Cushing. It recounted that, upon hearing of Cushing’s death, Lee said:
“I don’t want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again.”
I pray that these two friends are reunited in eternal joy and fellowship.
Rest in peace, Sir Christopher. I trust that, unlike Saruman, your spirit will not be turned away from the Uttermost West.