The best thing about The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is that it was clearly made by a team who had a huge amount of passion for JRR Tolkien’s books. Peter Jackson and his collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens clearly loved Tolkien’s world, and many other members of the cast and crew were big Lord of the Rings geeks as well. None more so than Saruman himself – Christopher Lee.
Lee had the honor of being the only member of the Lord of the Rings cast to have actually met the man himself: JRR Tolkien. In 2003, Lee told The Independent; “I did meet him, very briefly, in the Fifties. It was in a pub that he used to go to in Oxford, called the Eagle and Child. I was there having a beer and I was completely overcome when he walked in. I had already started reading the books and thought, ‘This man has created a unique form of literature – one of the great works of all time.'”
While he was filming the fantasy movies, Lee said; “I thought about what he would have thought all the time, and hope he would have approved. I’m still an enormous fan – I read The Lord of the Rings every year.”
Lee was so overwhelmed when Tolkien walked into the pub, that he was rendered speechless [via TolkienGateway]; “We were sitting there talking and drinking beer, and someone said, ‘Oh, look who walked in.’ It was Professor Tolkien, and I nearly fell off my chair. I didn’t even know he was alive. He was a benign looking man, smoking a pipe, walking in, an English countryman with earth under his feet. And he was a genius, a man of incredible intellectual knowledge. He knew somebody in our group, so he came over. And each one of us, well I knelt of course, each one of us said ‘how do you do?’ And I just said “Ho.. How.. How…'”
When Christopher Lee passed away in 2015, Peter Jackson told Entertainment Weekly that Lee virtually knew the books off-by-heart, but he had his heart set on a different Lord of the Rings character; “He literally loomed out of the shadows and introduced himself to Fran and me. As we chatted, he told us how he’d met Tolkien, and why the book meant so much to him. He re-read The Lord of the Rings every single year, and could freely quote vast chunks.”
“We had a video camera and tripod set up, but just said that we would love him to be in our movie — virtually offering him the role of Saruman right there. However, it was at that exact moment that Fran and I realized in horror that he’d come to talk to us about playing Gandalf!”
Check out our guides to some of the other best Lord of the Rings characters, such as Aragorn, explained and Gollum, explained. Find out what we know so far about The Rings of Power season 2 release date.