Sir Christopher Lee would be keen on a possible return to the role of Saruman for the upcoming films based on The Hobbit, he has admitted.

The veteran actor starred as the wizard in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy and was known to be frustrated that his climactic scenes were cut from the cinema version of The Return of the King, only being included in the extended edition DVD.

But with Guillermo Del Toro planning to film one movie based on JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and a second believed to centre on the gap between the conclusion of Bilbo Baggins' return from the Lonely Mountain and the beginning of his cousin Frodo's journey towards Mordor, Saruman could feature in the new films.

And speaking to Empire magazine, Sir Christopher drew on his extensive knowledge of Tolkien's work to explain a possible role for Saruman in the Hobbit films.

"I've read the books time and again," he explained. "Originally Saruman the White and the rest of the wizards, or the Istari as they call them, were immortal.

"There were five of them, two of them never appear, I know their names but they never appear, and the only three that are mentioned are Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown who you never see – so basically it's two wizards.

"They lived for thousands of years and they were sent to the earth and they are virtually immortal. When it all started, Saruman was the noblest, the finest, the bravest, the most dependable and reliable of them all, he was number one.

"But somewhere, somehow, and it was never actually explained, he turns and it's probably the Palantir [the seeing stone] that makes Saruman realise that if Sauron can do this, why can't I do it and Saruman wants to become The Lord Of The Rings himself."

He added: "I'd be interested in seeing how that transition from good to evil occurred and, yes, of course I would return to the role if I was asked."

Del Toro, with Peter Jackson on executive producing duties, is expected to begin shooting his Hobbit films in New Zealand in 2009.

05/06/2008 08:59:57