E! Online has an on-location report of battle scenes between Gandalf and Saruman. Despite some rather questionable assertions (like Saruman using “black magic” with his “Palantir Staff”), I’m was really excited to read that Christopher Lee has “read LOTR every year for the last 25 years”–now that bodes wonderfully well for his portrayal of Saruman! There’s lots of great behind-the-scenes info in the report. Here’s the first page of the article:
Off to See the Wizards–Face to Face with Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee
E!Online – March 1, 2000
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND–I’m standing in Saruman’s throne room in Orthanc, on a soundstage at the Lord of the Rings studios. The dark, circular chamber is part Gothic cathedral, part Gestapo fortress.
Jagged, steely black walls stretch up 20 feet to the ceiling, mirroring the beetlelike exoskeleton armor worn in battle by Saruman’s Uruk-hai warriors. Everything transmits a metallic gleam–with help from a technician who dutifully polishes the floor between takes.
I politely show him a spot he’s missed, then walk into Saruman’s antechamber. It’s a jumbled mess of candles, leatherbound books, animal skulls and papers inscribed in Old Elvish (and it feels a million miles away from the luxuriously furnished interiors of Bag End, housed in the studio set next door).
Today, Peter Jackson’s team is filming climactic scenes between Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Saruman (Christopher Lee), the two great wizards of the epic. Here’s the setup: Gandalf discovers Saruman has misled the White Council of wizards, and he now seeks the power of the One Ring for himself. Saruman uses black magic in an attempt to enslave Gandalf and make him reveal the Ring’s location. Cue big sticks, pointy hats and thunderbolts for a battle between superhumans.
Reclining in a chair in the Orthanc studio is Lee, dressed in flowing white robes with long white hair and a beard. He beckons with clawed fingers, inviting me to look into his unblinking brown eyes.
“Although the wizards are trapped in this frail human form, they are immortal.” he croons. “It’s in the eyes–the rage of being knocked about in a human shell, but the immortal is still there.” If anyone can capture the power and magic of the immortal, it is Lee. Standing six-foot-five, he walks noiselessly through the throne room, brandishing his Palantir staff at Gandalf, who is knocked to the floor with evil magic.
Lee’s Saruman is commanding, majestic and terrifying. A longtime reader and admirer of Tolkien, Lee describes being introduced to Tolkien at a pub in Oxford, England, when Tolkien was professor of English lit at Oxford and Lee a student at a local school. “He came in, smoking his pipe, bright twinkling eyes, and wearing his tweed jacket,” Lee recalls. “He looked like a typical countryman, which he was at heart. He seemed very shy, very reserved. I didn’t say anything, though I was completely in awe of him and his work. I think a compliment would have embarrassed him.”