Childhood & Early Life
Lee was born Lee Grinner Pace, on March 25, 1979, in Chickasha, Oklahoma, to James Roy Pace, an engineer, and Charlotte Pace (née Kloeckler), a schoolteacher. He grew up with his sister, Sally, and his younger brother, William Pace. While growing up, because of his father’s business, Lee had to move to various locations frequently. He had also lived in Saudi Arabia, where his father had an oil business. Lee later moved to Houston, Texas.
Lee attended 'Klein High School' in Spring, Texas. He briefly quit high school to join 'Alley Theatre' in Houston, where he was cast in productions of 'The Spider's Web' and 'The Greeks.' Lee later graduated high school and earned a BFA degree from ' Juilliard School.' From 1997 to 2001, he was a member of 'Group 30' in 'Juilliard’s drama division and performed in several plays. He played ‘Romeo’ in 'Romeo and Juliet,' the titular role in 'Richard II,' and ‘Cassius’ in 'Julius Caesar.'
After graduating from ‘Juilliard,’ Lee starred in a few ‘off-Broadways,’ including 'The Credeaux Canvas' and 'The Fourth Sister.' He earned a 'Lucille Lortel' nomination for his outstanding performance in 'Small Tragedy' by Craig Lucas. In 2006, Lee earned his second 'Lortel' nomination, for the two-character play 'Guardians’ by Peter Morris.
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Lee made his professional acting debut in 2002, with a brief appearance in the 'NBC' crime drama 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.' He emerged as a fine actor after the release of the 2003 'Showtime' movie 'Soldier's Girl.' In the film, Lee essayed the role of real-life actor and transgender activist Calpernia Addams, whose love interest, soldier Barry Winchell, was brutally killed as a consequence of his relationship with Calpernia. Playing a transgender in the debut film was challenging for Lee, but his hard work paid off, as he won a 'Gotham Award' for the role. He was also nominated for three prestigious awards, including a 'Golden Globe,' for his performance.
In 2004, Lee appeared in 13 episodes on the 'Fox' comedy–drama 'Wonderfalls.' The following year, he was seen in the drama film 'The White Countess.' Lee appeared as ‘Richard Hickock’ in the 2006 film 'Infamous.' He was also featured in the fantasy film 'The Fall' and the spy film 'The Good Shepherd.' For his role in the latter, he shared the 'Silver Bear' award for ‘Outstanding Artistic Contribution,’ with the cast.
In 'The Fall,' Lee played a paraplegic. The director managed to convince almost the entire cast that the actor had suffered from the disease in real life. Lee’s makeup man almost fainted when he once accidentally saw him standing. Lee sang in the 2008 romantic comedy 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,' which also featured him as ‘Michael Pardew.’
Lee’s next significant TV project was the 'ABC' fantasy mystery comedy–drama 'Pushing Daisies,' in which he played the lead character, ‘Ned.’ The role earned him five nominations, including two for the 'Satellite Award,' and one each for the 'Primetime Emmy,' the 'Golden Globe,' and the 'Saturn' awards. After 'Pushing Daisies,' Lee moved his focus to films and made his ‘Broadway’ debut, too.
Lee had a lead role alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in the 2009 psychological thriller 'Possession.' His first ‘Broadway’ project, 'The Normal Heart,' was an autobiographical play, which opened on April 27, 2011, at the 'Golden Theatre.' He portrayed Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini in his second ‘Broadway’ play, 'Golden Age,' in 2012. The same year, he played ‘Garrett,’ a nomadic vampire, in 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.'
Lee played American politician Fernando Wood in the 2012 historical drama 'Lincoln.' He then starred in the fantasy–adventure film, 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.' Lee was cast as the fictional character ‘Thranduil,’ which he also played in the next two 'The Hobbit' installments: 'The Desolation of Smaug' and 'The Battle of the Five Armies.' Lee’s fantasy film credits also include the 'Marvel Comics'-based superhero films 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014) and 'Captain Marvel' (2019). He played ‘Ronan the Accuser’ in both the films.
Lee made a comeback to TV in 2014, when he was cast in the recurring (40 episodes) role of ‘Joe MacMillan’ in the 'AMC' period drama 'Halt and Catch Fire.' The role earned him a 'Satellite Award' nomination for the ‘Best Actor in a Series, Drama.’ In 2015, he portrayed Bill Stapleton, a former competition swimmer, in former cyclist Lance Armstrong’s biopic, 'The Program.' The same year, he lent his voice to the character of real-life personality Heinrich Himmler, the infamous 'Nazi' member who was responsible for the ‘Holocaust,’ in an episode of the stop-motion sketch comedy series 'Robot Chicken.'
In the subsequent years, Lee appeared in starring roles in films such as the supernatural horror 'The Keeping Hours' (2017), the drama 'The Book of Henry' (2017), the science fiction 'Revolt,' and the comedy 'The Party's Just Beginning' (2018). He appeared as John Zachary DeLorean, owner of the 'DeLorean Motor Company,' in the 2018 biographical drama 'Driven.' He was cast as ‘Joe Pitt’ in the 'National Theatre's ‘Broadway’ revival of 'Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,' which opened on March 25, 2018.
Family & Personal Life
Lee dated casting director James Calleri from 2002 to 2005. He then had a brief relationship with director Jason Moore and British actor Anna Friel. Lee’s next long-term relationship was with American photographer Carter Smith. His last known relationship was with Irish actor Laura Donnelly.
In 2018, Lee hinted about his new relationship with “a fashion executive.” There was also a rumor about his marriage to his longtime partner. The rumor also mentioned that the two had already had an intimate wedding.
In 2012, Lee’s co-actor in 'The Hobbit' movies, Ian McKellen, commented on Lee’s sexual orientation and accidentally mentioned him as gay. However, Lee refrained from commenting on Ian’s statement. Later, in February 2018, he finally “came out” and mentioned having dated both men and women previously. He also identified himself as gay.