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.
OMG, I've just read this on Aint It Cool News and am gutted, as is my wife :-(