By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated November 13, 2003 11:49 AM

Don’t bother inviting Christopher Lee to the premiere of “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” next month. It’s probably safe to assume he won’t want the DVD, either.

The actor, 81, says he’s mystified to learn that his key scenes have been cut from the third “Lord of the Rings” movie, in which he continued his role as the wizard Saruman.

Lee says he had expected to appear in seven minutes’ worth of pivotal and climactic scenes, which he had filmed in New Zealand for director Peter Jackson.

When last seen (in the second installment), Saruman was trapped in the Tower of Orthanc. In the original J.R.R. Tolkien novel, Saruman meets his end when his throat is cut and his spirit rises like smoke, before he disappears with the wind.

“Of course I am very shocked, that’s all I can say,” Lee told a British TV audience on ITV1’s “This Morning” Wednesday. He also made it plain that he intends to boycott the film’s premiere in December.

“What’s the point of going? None at all,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m only telling you this because it has been revealed on the Internet, someone has talked and it certainly wasn’t me,” he said on the TV show.

“If you want to know why (he’s on the cutting room floor), you would have to ask the company New Line or director Peter Jackson and his associates,” said Lee, “because I still don’t really know why.” (New Line, like PEOPLE, is part of Time Warner.)

Lee added: “I can’t say any more, because I signed a confidentiality agreement and I honored my word.”

“Rings” series director Peter Jackson is quoted in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper as saying that he had been forced to trim Lee’s scenes after viewing “various cuts over the last few weeks.”

The BBC reports that fans of Lee have set up a Web site petition to restore his deleted scenes.