Legendary actor Sir Christopher Lee, who played the evil Sith Lord Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), died on Sunday in London at age 93. With a commanding voice, towering height, and powerful presence that combined nobility with a menacing flair, he brought some of cinema’s most memorable antagonists to life in unique ways. This included his Shakespearean portrayal of Count Dooku, a dark-side mirror to the elder Obi-Wan Kenobi, who Lee infused with a captivating arrogance and mercilessness. Dooku has become one of Star Wars’ greatest villains; Lee returned to the role for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie, introducing a younger generation to the character. “Christopher brought a grace and gravitas to the many roles he’s played over a rich and expansive career,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said. “His performance as Count Dooku in Episodes II and III remains a highlight of the Star Wars saga, and we have been so privileged and honored to count him among our family. Christopher was a gentle soul and deeply adored by fans, and we will miss him dearly.”
When cast as Dooku in 2000, Lee told StarWars.com of his excitement to join a galaxy far, far away. “They created a whole new era in the cinema,” he said of the Star Wars films. “There’s no question about that. The scale of imagination and the scale of production and the impact that it had on the entire world was a first. It created an impact in the cinema that was unique. This particular series of film will be a mythic saga on a vast scale.” In Attack of the Clones, Lee’s climactic duel with a CGI Yoda would go on to be among the film’s most popular and innovative scenes. “One of the things that George Lucas said to me,” Lee said, “was, ‘We’ll have a lot fun.’ And that, believe me, is very good to hear.” It was a reunion of sorts; Lee first worked with Lucasfilm on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series, where he played Count Ottokar Graf Czernin — an obstacle to Young Indy’s secret mission to negotiate a peaceful end to World War I.
“Christopher was a great British actor of the old school,” George Lucas said in a statement. “A true link to cinema’s past and a real gentleman. We will miss him.” Among Lee’s biggest roles outside of the Star Wars saga were iconic turns as Dracula (first in 1958’s The Horror of Dracula) and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Despite his close association with villains, Lee was equally gifted at comedy or heroic parts: he played a mad scientist in the satirical Gremlins II (1990), Sherlock Holmes’ brother in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), and many stage roles, from Shakespeare to Coward.
But his Star Wars legacy will go on. As Lee told StarWars.com prior to production of Attack of the Clones, “It will be more than another part. It will be another ‘arrow in my quiver.’ I’m looking forward to it enormously.”