When The Beatles wanted to be hobbits: the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie that never was

When The Beatles wanted to be hobbits: the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie that never was
When The Beatles wanted to be hobbits: the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie that never was

Legendary author JRR Tolkien, holder of the rights to his work at the time, declined The Beatles’ proposal to adapt “The Lord of the Rings” to film. (Credits: New Line Cinema/Super Punch)

This is not a theory or a rumor, but a fact confirmed by the same Peter Jackson: the famous British band, the Beatleswanted to make his own film version of The Lord of the rings. And if it had not been for the simple fact that JRR Tolkien was still alive when the “Liverpool Quartet” came up with the idea, most likely John, Paul, George and Ringo would have traveled through the countryside of Mordor and the Shire.

But what exactly had to happen for these four British musicians who had already conquered the world with their famous songs to come up with such an idea? At the moment, the person who remembers this story the most is Jackson himself, who curiously would be in charge of adapting Tolkien’s work into one of the most beloved trilogies in the history of cinema.

John Lennon would have played Gollum, Paul McCartney would have played Frodo, George Harrison would have played Gandalf and Ringo Starr would have played Sam in The Beatles’ version.

Let’s remember that Jackson is not only a lover of cinema, but also of The Beatles. It was precisely that that led him to make the 3-part documentary The Beatles: Get Back (how long more than 7 hours), in addition to restoring more than 50 hours of outtakes from the 1970 documentary Let It Be. It is in this extensive investigation that Jackson has come across this curious story involving his favorite band and his most awarded work.

“I was gathering little pieces of information. I was questioning Paul about it. Ringo doesn’t remember much”Jackson said in an interview for the BBC. The documentary, which can be seen on Disney+, opened the doors for Peter to not only work closely with Paul MCCARTNEYbut also to delve deeper into the history of that version of The Lord of the rings that was never carried out.

Peter Jackson’s interest in The Beatles and their relationship with “The Lord of the Rings” arose while working on the documentary “The Beatles: Get Back.” (Credit: REUTERS/Neil Hall)

According to what was told by the renowned director, “Denis O’Dell, who was his film producer at Apple, was the one who had the idea” of making the film adapting Tolkien’s work. For this reason, when the Beatles were traveling in India (one of the band’s most important and influential trips), O’Dell decided to send them the books that made up the original trilogy written by JRRT.

When they went to Rishikesh and stayed in Indiaabout three months with the Maharishi in early 1968 sent them the books”said the New Zealand filmmaker. “I guess because there are three, he sent a book to each of the Beatles. I don’t think Ringo got one, but John, Paul and George got a book The Lord of the rings to read in India. AND they got excited with it,” he explained.

The “Lord of the Rings” books were sent to John, Paul and George by Denis O’Dell while they were in India. (Credits: Keystone/Shutterstock)

Just after the trip to India, the iconic British band had already been influenced and, as compiled by Peter Jackson, the quartet’s idea was for themselves to be the protagonists. In this way, the papers would have been like this: John Lennon as Gollum, Paul McCartney as Frodo, George Harrison as Gandalf and Ringo Starr as Sam.

But as funny as it might be to imagine each one in such a way today, this was a serious project for The Beatles, so they had in mind entrusting the direction to one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of the seventh art. Had the project received the green light, the director they had in mind was none other than Stanley Kubrick.

For the direction of this peculiar version of “The Lord of the Rings”, The Beatles considered renowned filmmaker Stanley Kubrick as a main option. (Credit: Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)

The idea was there, the desire was not lacking and money was not a problem. However, the musicians encountered only one problem: JRR Tolkien, who at that time still owned the rights to his work, closed the door on them with a resounding “no.”. For the writer, the fact that these influential musical stars took over his work and transferred it to film was a problem, according to Jackson.

“In the end They couldn’t get the rights to Tolkien, because he didn’t like the idea of ​​a pop group doing their story.. So it was rejected by him,” Peter recalled. “They tried to do it. No doubt about it. And at one point, in early 1968, they were seriously thinking about doing it,” said the filmmaker and fan of the band.

JRR Tolkien rejected The Beatles’ proposal due to his disapproval of a pop group adapting his work.

It should be noted that while this was happening, in 1968, Peter Jackson was just a 6 year old boy.. At that time, the genius behind other films like king kong, From my heaven and the trilogy The Hobbithe had no idea what Tolkien’s backlash against the Beatles was going to mean for his career roughly 50 years later.

The film trilogy of The Lord of the ringsdirected by Peter Jackson, marked a milestone in the history of cinema for its great success at the box office, favorable reviews and numerous awards and recognitions. This project, which adapted JRR Tolkien’s work of the same name, captured the imagination of audiences around the world and generated an unprecedented cultural phenomenon.

Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is considered a milestone in the film industry. (Credits: EFE/EPA/NEIL HALL)

The first film, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), followed by The two Towers (2002) and The return of the King (2003), were acclaimed for their ambition, epic scale and groundbreaking special effects that set new standards for the film industry. Its success not only revitalized interest in the fantasy genre, but also posed challenges and opportunities for the production of epic films.

The impact of the trilogy on the Academy Awards was notable, as The return of the King tied the record of Ben Hur and Titanic by winning 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, which is a testament to its excellence in direction, script, visual effects, sound, music and production design, among other aspects. The three films together racked up an impressive 30 Oscar nominations, of which they won 17, making them one of the most awarded trilogies in film history.

The film adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings” by Peter Jackson revived worldwide interest in the fantasy genre. (Credits: New Line Cinema)

The critical and commercial success was complemented by a renaissance in reading Tolkien’s workthe launch of related merchandiseambitious video gameseveral positive effects on New Zealand tourism (where the movies were filmed) and a later TV series from Prime Video released in 2022.

Jackson shared a conversation he had with Paul McCartney, in which the musician reflected on how not having performed his version allowed Jackson’s version to come into existence, hinting at the possibility of how The Beatles’ music could have influenced the perception of Middle Earth.

The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson, received a total of 17 Oscar Awards, with “The Return of the King” standing out with 11 awards. (Credits: New Line Cinema)

Paul was very kind. He told me ‘it was good that we didn’t do our adaptation because then you wouldn’t have done yours, and it was great to be able to see yours’. I told him: ‘What saddens me are the songs; You would have created some fantastic melodies for this: it was the Beatles after all. It’s a shame we missed it,’” Jackson quoted of his exchange with McCartney.

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