Here’s how to tell when you’re watching truly great acting.
Way back in ancient times, when The Lord of the Rings movies were in theaters, I went to see Fellowship of the Ring thirteen times. Thirteen. I saw it in the company of many different people, from screaming four-year-olds afraid of the Nazgul to my elderly grandmother, whose immersion was ruined by the presence of tomatoes.
Honestly, I think that that movie trilogy is probably the finest display of its actors’ talents; I’ve never seen a better performance from any of them. And one of the best displays of this came from the late, great Christopher Lee. I feel a bit sorry for him because apparently in his earlier days, he dreamed of playing Aragorn or Gandalf… and I’ll admit, in his youth he would have made an excellent Aragorn. Tall, kingly, imposing, et cetera.
But make no mistake – nobody else could have played Saruman as well as he did.
And I know this because not only did he look like Saruman, but he had the compelling, persuasive voice that the character is supposed to have.
This was evident from the audience at one of these screenings of the first movie, when he’s revealing his master plan to Gandalf. Some of the people in the audience started getting glassy-eyed and looking like they were thinking, “Yeah, that makes sense…” until the film snapped them out of it by reminding us that yes, he is evil and he’s in league with Sauron. He consistently had that effect on people, and it was amazing.
RIP, Mr. Lee.