For Pete’s sake, did those Christopher Lee scenes really have to be scrapped?

Many newspapers reported that Wellington movie big-shot Peter Jackson had led the tributes to Sir Christopher Lee, who died last Sunday at the age of 93.

Among them is this report from The Guardian, which quoted from Jackson’t Facebook page:

Writing on his Facebook page, Jackson said Lee was “in every sense, a man of the world; well versed in art, politics, literature, history and science”.

He added: “He was scholar, a singer, an extraordinary raconteur and of course, a marvellous actor … There will never be another Christopher Lee. He has a unique place in the history of cinema and in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.

“The world will be a lesser place without him in it. My deepest sympathies to Gitte and to his family and friends. Rest in peace, Chris. An icon of cinema has passed into legend.”

Lee’s Lord of the Rings co-star Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins in the fantasy trilogy, wrote: “An extraordinary man and life lead [sic], Sir Christopher Lee. You were an icon, and a towering human being with stories for days. We’ll miss you.” Dominic Monaghan, who played Meriadoc Brandybuck, wrote: “So so sorry to hear that #christopherlee has passed away. He was a fascinating person. Threw a Bic pen into a tree in front of me.”

Dunno if Lee did any turning in his grave.

But Alf recalls a previous spate of reports when Lee was more than a tad miffed at having his scenes lopped from the third movie in the Rings series.

Alf can understand that something had to be lopped from this movie – and from many that Jackson makes – because otherwise the audience’s bladders would be stretched beyond bursting point and by the time the movie-goers got home their houses would be covered in cobwebs and the lawns would seriously need mowing.

But Lee had something of a hissy fit and Jackson had some explaining to do:

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has denied suggestions he was forced to cut scenes featuring Christopher Lee from the forthcoming final film in his trilogy after interference from the studio.

The Kiwi film-maker has taken the step of writing to cult US movie site Ain’t It Cool News to deny suggestions that New Line Cinema demanded cuts to keep the film’s run-time down. Jackson admitted that Return of the King, which opens worldwide on December 17, will not now include scenes featuring Lee which were originally filmed for its first seven minutes.

But he insisted the move was a purely directorial decision to improve the movie’s pacing and promised that the scenes would be reinstated for the by now customary extended DVD version.

Jackson told Ain’t It Cool News: “The problem is that the sequence was originally shot for The Two Towers, as it is in the book. Since The Two Towers couldn’t sustain a seven-minute ‘wrap’ after Helm’s Deep, we thought it would be a good idea to save it for the beginning of the Return of the King.

“The trouble is, when we viewed various ROTK cuts over the last few weeks, it feels like the first scenes are wrapping last year’s movie, instead of starting the new one. We felt it got Return Of The King off to an uncertain beginning, since Saruman plays no role in the events of ROTK (we don’t have the Scouring later, as the book does), yet we dwell in Isengard for quite a long time before our new story kicks off.

“We reluctantly made the decision to save this sequence for the DVD. The choice was made on the basis that most people will assume that Saruman was vanquished by the Helm’s Deep events, and Ent attack. We can now crack straight into setting up the narrative tension of ROTK, which features Sauron as the villain.”

Lee’s performance wasn’t the only thing to go. Subtlety was cast out, too – at least, it was given the bum’s rush according to Viggo Mortenson:

Mortensen thinks – rightly – that The Fellowship of the Ring turned out the best of the three, perhaps largely because it was shot in one go.

“It was very confusing, we were going at such a pace, and they had so many units shooting, it was really insane. But it’s true that the first script was better organised,” he says.

“Also, Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back. In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier. The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects. It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10.”

Dunno if Alf will be around to read the tributes when Mortenson carks.

He hopes he is around. He particularly wants to hear the tributes from Jackson on that occasion.




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