Sir Christopher Lee, known as the master of horror, has died at the age of 93 after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure.
His wife, the former Danish model Birgit Kroencke, decided to hold back the information for four days until all family members and friends were informed. The couple had been married for more than 50 years and had one daughter, Christina.
The actor was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity, and was awarded the Bafta fellowship in 2011.
News of his death prompted an outpouring of grief from actors, musicians, and even the prime minister; all paid tribute to Lee's great talent.
Tim Burton, the director who worked with Lee on five films, described him as "a true legend".
"Christopher has been an enormous inspiration to me my entire life. I had the honour and pleasure to work with him on five films (Sleepy Hollow, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows)", he said.
"He was the last of his kind - a true legend - who I'm fortunate to have called a friend. He will continue to inspire me and I'm sure countless others for generations to come."
Leading the tributes online were his Lord of the Rings co-stars Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood, as well as Sir Roger Moore, who played 007 opposite Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun.