It could very well be the last scene ever shot by one of Britain’s greatest living actors – the horror icon Sir Christopher Lee.

Lee, now aged 87, is currently plagued by ill-health and back problems after a series of falls. However, later this month, he will shoot a small cameo scene for The Wicker Tree, the long-awaited sequel to one of the greatest films Lee ever starred in – the Scottish horror cult classic The Wicker Man directed by Robin Hardy.

Ironically, Lee had waited more than 10 years to star in the follow-up but ill-health prevented him leading the cast at the last minute and a replacement was brought in – Graham McTavish, a Scottish actor who co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in the last Rambo film. It took more than a decade to raise The Wicker Tree’s scant budget of just £3 million despite the success of the original.

Lee regards The Wicker Man as the best film he ever made, and believes the follow-up could be even better. Lee, best known for his starring role in Dracula and a series of classic British horror films with Hammer studios, was all set to fly to Scotland to start work on The Wicker Tree until he fell and seriously injured his back, forcing him to pull out just days before filming was due to begin.

With the rest of the cast and crew ready to start shooting, the film-makers had little option but to bring in Graham McTavish as a replacement, while publicists maintained a strict veil of secrecy around the project.

The film is now at the editing stage. But the film-makers still have one final scene to shoot – Lee’s cameo. The horror legend is determined to play a role in what could be his last movie, if his back and health problems continue.

Robin Hardy, who is also directing The Wicker Tree, wrote a role especially for Lee. He will play a mysterious stranger who talks about his philosophy of life and death, and is listed in the script simply as “Old Man” – though audiences and fans of The Wicker Man will recognise him immediately as Lord Summerisle, leader of the sinister pagan community in the original 1973 film.

“It was terribly disappointing,” Sir Christopher told the Sunday Herald, of his inability to star in The Wicker Tree. “I had been looking forward to doing it for so long.”

He added: “I was going to sing a great deal too.”

The original film was a unique and chilling blend of horror, ancient folklore, religion, sexuality and creepy songs sung by the strange island community.

It is over 50 years since Lee’s breakthrough in the Hammer horror film Dracula. Ironically, he was just finishing work on a new film for the revived Hammer studio when he tripped over a cable and injured his back.

“It was literally about half an hour after I had finished The Resident,” he said. Lee was shooting in New Mexico with Hilary Swank on what is the first Hammer film for 30 years.

He has had ongoing health problems and remains uncertain about the future. “I have had two or three falls and it still isn’t right,” he said.

The Wicker Tree was shot in the Edinburgh area in July and August, but director Robin Hardy will film Lee’s scene in London, later this month. “We don’t want to travel him,” he said. “He’s not in the peak of condition at the moment and backs are very tricky things.

“We couldn’t wait really by the time we knew he had hurt his back and so we just had to make the decision of going without him ... But I think the fact that he will be in the film is important, and therefore there is an association with the first film.”

On Lee’s character in the film, Hardy said: “He’s something out of the past. The audience either knows the previous film and knows exactly who he is or resembles, or they don’t. I think, in the context that I am doing it, it won’t matter.”

In the original film Edward Woodward plays a policeman who flies to a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a child. A devout Christian, he is horrified by the hedonistic pagan community he finds there.

Hardy shot at numerous west of Scotland locations, including Kirkcudbright, Creetown, Culzean Castle, Plockton and Skye. The film was heavily cut for release, but acquired a huge following and growing critical reputation over the years.

There have been several books about it, a Scottish music festival is named after it and a disastrous Hollywood remake relocated the story in America with Nicolas Cage in the Edward Woodward role. Lee said dismissively that he had never seen it.

The Wicker Tree revolves around young missionaries who come to Scotland and get caught up in strange goings-on in a remote community. They are played in the film by Henry Garrett, a young actor who has appeared in EastEnders and Skins, and newcomer Brittania Nicol.