Harry Knowles from AICN got word about some major developments in the editing of RoTK from Peter Jackson himself. AICN’s server seems to be having trouble coping with the load right now, so I’ve taken the liberty of cutting down Harry’s verboseness and reproducing Jackson’s statement below:

Harry writes:

“Hey folks, Harry here… Sometimes working on an epic ain’t easy. Specially when you have so much passion involved, not only by the filmmakers, but the fans themselves.

About two weeks ago I heard that the Saruman/Grima work had been edited out of RETURN OF THE KING. My immediate reaction was… “OUCH!” I mean, Christopher Lee has owned in each of the 2 Lord of the Rings movies we’ve seen thus far, but also… His presence has been iconic and classy in a way that defies description.

I figured that this news would best be left to Peter to address in interviews once the film began screening, as I was sure it was a decision he did not relish making.

Here’s what Peter wrote me….

[The] Saruman thing you describe is a muddle of half-truths.

We have decided to save the Saruman sequence for the DVD. It’s a great little scene. 7 mins long. Chris is wonderful, as usual. Brad is in about 6 shots. It was a film maker decision – nothing to do with the studio.

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 7 min “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 ROTK 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 villian.

It was a very similar situation to last year when we decided to take a nice Boromir/Denethor flashback out of The Two Towers, and put it in the DVD. It was causing us pacing problems in the theatrical version, but with the Extended Cut just coming out now, fans can see this great little scene. Thank God for DVD, since it does mean that a version of the movie, which has different pacing requirements, can be released later. The Saruman sequence will definately be a highlight of the Extended ROTK DVD.

We have a lot of great DVD material this time around. As we crafted the movie, we reduced it from an over 4 hour running time, down to 3.12 (without credits – about 8 mins long). This was done by us. There were no studio cutting notes. We now have a movie with a pace that fells ok for it’s theatrical release. One more week to go. We are nearly there. Will we still be standing? It’s going to be a close run thing.


Peter J

A week to go? The news about New Line making the cuts themselves had instantly struck me wrong, because I knew that New Line wasn’t supposed to take possession of the film till November 1st.

However, I had found out that 11 days before that time, Peter had added, I believe it was 12 visual effects shots for the Minas Tirith battles, and I had heard it was going to put them past their deadline a bit… Well, now it’ll be 2 weeks past that date, which means that Next Friday… New Line will finally take over possession of the print, then about a 2 months of work will be squeezed into a month – as prints are created for world consumption.

Wonder how wet these things will be by the time they hit theaters?
Anyway, that’s the truth about Saruman and his scenes in RETURN OF THE KING, straight from Derek’s mouth! A hard decision, one of many in the making of an epic.”

Demosthenes here. This is very interesting, for sure. Sounds like we all get to play a giant game of “let’s pretend” with that particular scene until the DVD is released sometime next year. Personally, I’m not particularly fussed – I enjoyed EE release of Fellowship far more, and I expect I will feel the same for Towers.

Most of the outcomes of the confrontation at Isengard are plot trivialities with no great plot implications – except the Palantir. We’ve seen images of Aragorn holding it, and the implication is that Pippin does use it at Meduseld. I’ll be keen to see how effectively Walsh, Boyens and Jackson rework that.