Actor Christopher Lee dies in hospital aged 93

The actor passes away after respiratory problems and heart failure.

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Screen legend Sir Christopher Lee has died aged 93. The actor, famed for roles including Dracula, Saruman in Lord of the Rings, and Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga, passed away at 8.30am on Sunday at London's Chelsea and Westminster hospital, according to the Telegraph

His wife of more than 50 years, Birgit Krøncke, chose to delay the public announcement of her husband's death until all family members had been informed.

His death followed three weeks in hospital, where Lee was being treated for respiratory problems and heart failure.

His career began with a series of Hammer studio horror films in the 1950s, playing iconic characters including Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. He went on to appear in films such as The Wicker ManThe Three Musketeers​ and The Man with the Golden Gun. His later career involved a successful partnership with Tim Burton (appearing in five of his films, including Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow), and roles in major Hollywood franchises Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

Lee was knighted in 2009 and received a Bafta fellowship in 2011.

NS radio critic Antonia Quirke said of Lee in 2013:

Because of the whole Hammer Horror studio aesthetic – the Wagnerian soundtracks, the theatre-of-the-absurd dripping of bright blood on plump, moon-pale necks – Lee has a lingering reputation for ham that is completely unfounded. In fact, for Hammer Lee gave one of the greatest performances in British film. His Dracula glides up and down the stairs of his castle in a full-length cape that – miraculously – no more impedes his progress than if it were a bespoke suit from Savile Row worn by a star surgeon moving irritatedly from ward to ward followed by gasping nurses.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.