Today I Met Saruman

Christopher Lee as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings

Christopher Lee is one of the most recognizable actors of all time, famous for his roles as Dracula in Dracula, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, Count Dooku in Star wars, to name but a few of his 275 parts in films since 1947. (He holds the Guinness World Record for most film roles ever.)

Yes, that’s right, Sir Christopher Lee (yep, he’s been knighted too) has had an acting career that has spanned 6 decades. And he still hasn’t stopped; he’s now 89 years old, but he has done 5 more roles in films coming out in the next few years – including the two Hobbit films!

Today I was honored to attend a talk he gave in UCD on behalf of the UCD Law Soc. I went with my friend Oisin, craftily masquerading as his girlfriend Julie (you see, I don’t actually go to UCD. Luckily, Law Soc cards don’t have photo ID!). The lecture hall, which I was told holds roughly 500, was completely full, and there were plenty of photographers and cameramen present to capture the event.

Sir Lee as Count Dooku

It should be a testament to how revered Sir Lee is by his fans that he received not one, but two(!), standing ovations during his talk.

Now 89 years old, Sir Lee is definitely beginning to show signs of age. He walks with the aid of a walking stick and has a somewhat stooped posture. But his personal charisma, force of personality, and famous baritone voice are all undimmed by the passage of time.

Sir Lee commented on many of his most famous roles – and a couple of his personal favorites as well. He regards Jinnah, an only regionally released film about the founder of Pakistan, to be his most important role. An avid fan of Tolkien (he regularly reads his books), he also told us how delighted he had been to play the role of Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also mentioned that his role as the pre-fall-to-evil Saruman in the upcoming Hobbit movies was a cherished one.

Sir Lee prides himself on performing his own stunts. As he happily pointed out, he really did fight Yoda in Episode 2! He jokingly reflected, however, that considering his age, such stunts are probably a bad idea from now on.

Saruman the White

The part of the talk which really stood out for me was when Sir Lee talked about his role as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He lamented the fact that his part, which he considered a hugely important element of the story (and I agree), was cut out in the cinema edition of the movie. The extended edition is well worth watching to see this scene where Saruman, the Fellowships greatest mortal enemy, is finaly defeated. When Sir Lee started talking about playing the role of Saruman I was literally blown away: he actually changed and became Saruman right there in front of us in the lecture hall.

Talking about confronting the Fellowship, and Aragorn in particular, he suddenly seemed to emit a dark aura and a massive imposing presence; although he was seated he still managed to loom over the lecture hall, towering over us with his authority. If he had stood up and performed some dark sorcery, as Saruman might, I would honestly not have been surprised. I think it is the mark of a truly great actor that he can effortlessly assume a role as challenging as Saruman’s so totally and so convincingly.

Musical wizardry!

Something you may not know about him is that he has also dabbled in music: symphonic metal, to be exact! Don’t believe me? Just look on amazon! He asserted that the fact that his CD is sold in practically every CD shop across Europe is a testament to it’s quality.

And after seeing the things he can do as Saruman and Count Dooku, I’m not sure you’d be wise to disagree with him 😉

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