London, Jun 11: Screen legend Christopher Lee, best known for his roles including Dracula and Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, has died after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure. He was 93.
The veteran actor passed away on June 7 morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, British media reported today.
The decision to release the news days after was based on his wife's desire to inform family members first. The couple had been married for over 50 years.
His film career started in 1947 with a role in gothic romance "Corridor of Mirrors" but it was not until the late 50s, when Lee worked with Hammer, that he started gaining fame.
His first role with the studio was "The Curse of Frankenstein" and it was the first of 20 films that he made with Peter Cushing, who also became a close friend.
Lee's most famous role for Hammer was playing Dracula, a role which became one of his most widely recognised although the actor was not pleased with how the character was treated.
He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded the Bafta fellowship in 2011. As well as his career in film, Lee also released a series of heavy metal albums, including Charlemagne: The Omens of Death.
After dabbling with music throughout much of his career, including a song on "The Wicker Man" soundtrack, Lee released his first full-length album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross in 2010.
It was well-received by the heavy metal community and won him the spirit of metal award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony.
The actor still has one film yet to be released, a fantasy film "Angels in Notting Hill", where he plays a godly figure who looks after the universe.
He was also set to star in 9/11 drama "The 11th" opposite Uma Thurman but it is believed that the film had not yet started production.