The Lord of the Rings: Behind the scenes dispute that almost brought the saga to ruin


The Lord of the Rings has this kind of legend surrounding his creation. Of course, director Peter Jackson and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens basically walked through the circle of hellfire to make the film and it was possible and impossible thanks to Harvey Weinstein’s assistant.

Then there was all the money, the technological achievements that needed to be surpassed, shooting three movies at once in a foreign country, and the magnitude of it all. But the legend that surrounds the production of The Lord of the Rings is not as well known for its epic stories as it is for the camaraderie behind its creation. Or, rather, the camaraderie of the cast and crew members.

Sure, there were rumors of conflicts with Sean Astin on set, but for the most part, each and every actor became intensely close while making the movie. And the same goes for director Peter Jackson. He and the entire cast of him formed a bond that will never be broken. So it’s absolutely shocking to learn that there was a cast member who was deeply unhappy with Peter and in fact stopped talking to him for years, and this dispute was muted by the press.

Yes, Peter Jackson had a secret battle with Saruman and it wasn’t pretty. The late Sir Christopher Lee had a big fight with the director, but eventually reconciled before reprising his role in the Hobbit movies. The origin of the dispute actually stems from a creative choice Peter made with the character of Christopher, and this same creative decision really caught the attention of many fans.

In JRR Tolkien’s book for “The Two Towers” there is a scene involving his villain character after The Battle of Helms Deep. This makes sense given the fact that Saruman was the villain in the first two movies. His boss, Sauron, had no physical form and therefore did not interact with heroes in the same way that Saruman did. And, as any good storyteller would do, Tolkien made sure to find a way to wrap it up until he brought it back at the end of “Return of the King.”

But that doesn’t happen in Peter Jackson film adaptations. The end of “The Two Towers” sees Saruman looking out of a balcony at his now decimated land of Isengard, and that’s the last time we see him. This is because, Peter believed that he had too many endings in the film and wanted to put the film on hold right after The Battle of Helms Deep and the looting of Saruman’s house.

Christopher felt this was a betrayal on many fronts; personally because of his friendship with Peter, artistically because of the structure of the movies, and because he wasn’t faithful to the original material he grew up reading. Because this scene was cut, Christopher Lee boycotted the premiere of “The Return of the King” and stopped talking to Peter altogether. Unfortunately for Peter, Christopher continued to dodge calls from him for several years after all the productions were released.