If you’re as avid a fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy as we are, you probably haven’t watched the theatrical versions in years, and only ever press play on the extended versions. Therefore, it can be easy to forget that some fairly important scenes were left out of the theatrical cuts, despite their hefty run-times. And Christopher Lee was particularly upset that his death scene was left for the DVD extras when he got through Return of the Kings’ 42 endings.
Christopher Lee was famously passionate about The Lord of the Rings books, re-reading them every year and once being star-struck by his hero JRR Tolkien in the flesh. Lee lobbied Jackson for the role of Gandalf, but had to make his peace with playing the trilogy’s main villain who isn’t just a glowing red eye on a stick – Saruman.
However, when watching The Lord of the Rings movies in order, Lee was shocked to discover that he didn’t get a death scene in The Two Towers (which is when Saruman dies in the books), and that he was one of the few members of the main Lord of the Rings cast who isn’t in The Return of the King at all.
Speaking to University College Dublin students in 2011 (via Yahoo) about the best fantasy movie trilogy ever, Lee said; “We were all shown the films in private, and when the third film came on, I couldn’t believe what I saw, because I wasn’t in it. The scene is one of the most important scenes in the whole trilogy, because it’s Saruman, the great mortal enemy, the most evil of them all, against the Fellowship.”
Lee says that the scene was a crucial final confrontation between the main Lord of the Rings characters; “And I’m on top of the tower at Isengard, looking down at the Fellowship, and saying very nasty things to them, to Aragorn, ‘this man from the woods will never be king’, and so on. It was a long sequence, the final confrontation between the Fellowship and their greatest enemy. And it wasn’t in the film.”
“No one could understand it. There were millions of hits on the internet, not just from Tolkien fans and film fans, but from everybody who had seen the first two. They said ‘what happened to Saruman?’ Buy the extended DVD.”
Lee did hold some resentment against Jackson for the decision, but they reconciled and Lee was brought back for the Hobbit movies. Thankfully the extended editions are considered ‘definitive’ now, and we have Saruman’s death scene to watch whenever we desire. We’re looking forward to more from Middle-earth in Lord of the Rings: War of the Rohirrim and in The Rings of Power season 2. We’re also looking forward to House of the Dragon season 2.