The world of cinema has lost a legend in 2015. In his long career, Christopher Lee was known for many iconic roles, including Dracula, Count Dooku and Saruman the White. However, his role of the white wizard gone bad in Lord of the Ringswasn’t the one he had in mind.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lord of the Ringsdirector Peter Jackson admitted that he always had Lee in mind for the role of Saruman, even though Lee was trying to avoid the villain roles.
The wizard Lee had in mind, on the contrary, was Gandalf the Grey – much to Peter Jackson’s “horror”. Jackson has shared this one and many other anecdotes about the deceased actor, who was the only one of the Lord of the Rings cast that actually met J.R.R. Tolkien, and used to read the trilogy at least once every year.
A very awkward 30 minutes followed, with Fran and I trying our best to explain to a rather peeved Christopher Lee that we were already talking to Ian McKellen about Gandalf — but what an incredible Saruman he would be!
Chris wasn’t hearing a bar of it, and eventually commanded us to turn on the video camera so he could audition for Gandalf ... Eventually we confirmed Ian for Gandalf and officially offered Chris the Saruman role. We started shooting, and whenever we discussed Saruman’s scenes with Chris, he would always feel the need to say, “You must understand, Peter — he’s really not an evil man.’ He was carrying some heavy scars of Dracula of his own, and I felt it quite strongly.
Chris also let Ian McKellen know that he had really been hoping to play Gandalf. At one point during the shoot, Chris said, ‘I’m perfectly happy to be in an ‘Ian McKellen film.” Ian immediately turned to Chris, and with great affection he replied, ‘But not as thrilled as I am — to be in a ‘Christopher Lee movie’!’
That was the bittersweet reality with Chris — while he regarded his cinematic history with a certain amount of disdain, everyone around him had the opposite opinion.