The 6’4” Englishman was one of the greatest villains in all of the cinema. He reached his apogee in the Hammer horror films made from the late 1950s into the 1970s, with my favorite of his productions being the title character in Dracula Prince of Darkness, released in 1966. More recently, he has played Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (?!) in the later Star Wars films. I also remember him fondly as Mycroft Holmes in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) and Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man (1973). If you scan his filmography, you will be surprised how many great roles he played over some six decades plus.
What with the film industry being what it is today, there are not a lot of great villains. Now they’re selected more on the basis of having a villainous face rather than any acting talent. One of the reasons for his success is the variety he brought to his parts. As he once said, “One thing to me is very important, if you’re playing somebody that the audience regards as, let’s say evil, try to do something they don’t expect, something that surprises the audience.”
Well, he surprised and delighted me for many years. I will miss him grievously.