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British Academy honors Christopher Lee

BAFTA has announced that Christopher Lee will receive the Academy Fellowship -- the most cherished prize of the Orange British Academy Film Awards -- at its televised ceremony on Sunday. Last year's Academy Fellowship winner was Vanessa Redgrave. Others have included Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, and Stanley Kubrick.

Lee is best known today as the corrupt wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy. But previous generations knew him as a mainstay of Hammer horror films.

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Blood dripping from a vampire's mouth never registered more clearly as erotic foam than it did with Lee's virile impersonation of Count Dracula. And his theatrical style influenced legions of younger performers.

When Johnny Depp was doing promotion for "Sleepy Hollow," he spoke of his love for Hammer horror films as well as the old Hollywood classics, and said he was drawn to acting "Where you're just on the verge of 'believable' and 'not-so-believable,' and quite possibly almost bad acting."

Lee has been able to navigate that verge like a virtuoso. That's why he deserves this Academy Fellowship.

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