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EE Commentary Transcripts
Saruman the White

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Fran: [Gandalf rides towards Isengard] Where was that shot, Pete?

Peter: That was down in the South Island, past Glenorchy. (beat) [Aerial shot of Gandalf approaching Orthanc, screen cap] This is almost completely CG, this shot: everything’s digital in this one: the horse, the rider, the trees, everything. [Saruman walks down steps of Orthanc] And here we have Christopher Lee, his first entrance in the movie. It’s a… It was always a great thrill working with Christopher, because I’d always been a fan of the old Hammer Horror movies, and, you know, working with somebody like that, that you’ve admired for thirty years is really fun – a lot of fun. (beat) [Gandalf and Saruman in the gardens of Isengard] We ended up shooting a lot of this dialogue twice. This is a bit like the situation in Bag End, where it’s all plot explanatory stuff: it’s exposition and dialogue, and we shot the scenes with Gandalf and Saruman talking – both the exterior scene in the garden, and when they go into the chamber – we shot it early in our shoot, and by the time we’d put the film together, we wanted to have different information, and so, we basically had to get them back to New Zealand and re-shoot virtually the entire conversation, because what they were saying now was different: we just simply wanted them to convey different information to the audience.

Fran: Well part of it was identifying Sauron as a, sort of… giving him an identity separate to the character who appears in the prologue, and so we specifically had Chris Lee talk about him as the Eye and what… and how it’s dramatic – how it operated dramatically.

Peter: Yeah, they Eye is the bane of my life!

Fran: The Eye was such a horror to dramatise.

Peter: Having you central villain being nothing more than a flaming eyeball is a little bit of a problem. Of course, what we did is we elevated Saruman, in a sense, to the villainry rôle and kept the Eye relatively a minor player.

Fran: It’s just a hard thing to bring to cinema: it’s a wonderful notion, but it works very much, you know, far better in novel form than in… as a storytelling device for cinema.

Philippa: We had a lot of problems deciding what Saruman… Saruman’s agenda, and we played it in several different ways. We started off with the concept that Saruman was looking to Gandalf as an ally to go for the Ring and use it against Sauron; we also tried a more subtle version of that where you’re not quite sure, but eventually we decided to stay close to the books, I think, and to reveal Saruman attempting to take the Ring for himself, as he does in the books a little later on.

Peter: The sequence where the wizards fight was always a… it was a problem for me, because I really don’t like wizards in movies: I don’t like the idea of old guys firing blue lightning out of their fingertips and doing all the usual ‘wizardy’ type stuff, so I thought that the most interesting fight would be one where we strip away the magic to some – to a large degree, and we simply see two old guys beating the hell out of each other; I thought that that would be at least, kind of, humorous, and so that’s basically what we did. We kept the fight as physical as possible, and, you know, the idea was, you know, old bones and bodies, cracking onto the marble: you can almost feel the bruises starting to form. (beat) Of course, you know, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess that not a lot of this was actually Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee. The great thing with doing stunt fights with guys with long hair and beards is that you can disguise the stuntmen relatively well!

Fran: But I think even the stuntmen sustained some injuries from that scene.

Peter: Yeah, one of them cracked their head badly on the side of a trampoline when they were going to land on a trampoline and they fell short, and they actually hit the metal part of the trampoline on the back of their head. (beat)

A Short Cut to Mushrooms >>

The Lord of the Rings and its content does not belong to me, it is property of the Tolkien Estate;  the commentaries transcribed here, as well as the images used, are the property of New Line Cinema.