In the ’50s and ’60s, he was best known for his work in the Hammer Horror films, where he famously played Count Dracula, often alongside another actor who eventually showed up in Star Wars, Peter Cushing. In the ’70s, he upped his profile with pivotal roles in The Wicker Man and The Man with the Golden Gun.
(My personal introduction to Lee was 1982’s The Last Unicorn, where he voiced the villain, King Haggard.)
In the early 2000s, he gained a whole new audience in two of the decades biggest franchises, playing Dooku in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and the wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptions. He also appeared in several Tim Burton films.
Films aside, Lee led a intriguing life: He served as an intelligence officer during and just after World War II, where his duties involved hunting down Nazi war criminals. (In an infamous bit from the Lord of the Rings extras, he tells Peter Jackson how it sounds when a man is stabbed in the back.)
In the L.A. Times, director Josh Trank addresses why he dropped out of the second Star Wars Anthology film.
“I want to do something original after [Fantastic Four] because I’ve been living under public scrutiny, as you’ve seen, for the last four years of my life,” he said. “And it’s not healthy for me right now in my life. I want to do something that’s below the radar.”
“I have a great relationship with everyone at Lucasfilm and with Kari Hart,” he continued. “And they all understood it because this whole experience for me has been very psychologically hard.”
Simon Kinberg, also present at the interview, called the rumors that followed Trank’s departure “particularly cruel.”
So, as you probably already know, Leonard Nimoy died today. There’s not really much I have to add to what’s already been said, thousands of times over.
The first movie I can remember going to in the theater is The Search for Spock. Star Wars may have been the bigger phenomenon in the early ’80s, but Star Trek was on TV, regularly. For a kid born in the late ’70s to geek parents, with no older siblings to pass on the Star Wars bug, Trek was simply more present. I was never precisely fannish about it, but I liked it, I’ve watched most of the movies, and I know I’ve seen nearly every episode of TOS and TNG at some point or another.
I saw a lot of references to Nimoy today as the “soul” of Trek, and, yeah: That sounds about right.