I’m sad to see the news today that Christopher Lee has passed away at the age of 93. As a kid I loved the Hammer Horror films he made (often with Peter Cushing), which were a staple of Saturday afternoon TV, but it was an even bigger thrill to see him cast in the role of Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s books still stand as my all-time favorites, and seeing them brought to life on the big screen has been a dream come true, one made even better for Lee’s presence in them.
Lee had the ultimate “street cred” for participating in these films. He was an avid reader of Lord of the Rings, and even met with Tolkien at one point, supposedly receiving his blessing to play the role of Gandalf if a film was ever made of the books (something that seemed unlikely for decades).
While I’m sure it was a disappointment for Lee to not get the Gandalf casting, he was a perfect fit as Saruman. After all, what’s the first characteristic that comes to mind when you think of Christopher Lee? It’s that deep, menacing voice, instantly recognizable no matter what the situation. Saruman the White was also known for his powerful and enchanting voice, and a whole chapter in the Two Towers centers on it.
I know if I got a pep talk from this guy I’d be ready to storm Helm’s Deep, too.