The long and winding saga of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings ultimately resulted in billions of box office dollars, dozens of Academy Awards and a well-earned status as one of the all-time great achievements in cinema that will endure as a trio of the best fantasy films ever made.
Of course, getting to that stage was far from easy, with Jackson being rejected by almost every studio in Hollywood before The Lord of the Rings ended up at New Line. Even then, the Tolkien Estate weren’t happy at some of the alterations being made to the source material, while shooting three blockbuster epics back-to-back was virtually unheard of at the time.
For the most part, Jackson got his way when it came to his debates with the studio, but in their new podcast Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan revealed there was pressure from the producers to kill off one of the four central Hobbits, and Monaghan was pretty sure it would have been him.
“It’s a good job that didn’t happen, because it would have been me. It definitely would have. There’s no way they are killing Frodo and Sam, and the only ones that would be left would be Merry and Pippin. They wouldn’t kill Pippin because Pippin has a really strong story with Gandalf. It would have definitely been me. I think Pete quite rightly was like, ‘This is a luminary piece of written work, and we need to stick close to the text’. So, he stuck by his guns. Yeah, I’m thankful that didn’t happen.”
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It may have created some dramatic stakes and a real sense of unpredictability were a beloved character like Merry to meet his demise before The Return of the King drew to a close. However, you can also guarantee that Tolkien purists and casual audiences would have been up in arms were such an important part of the trilogy and a scene-stealing figure of comic relief to be killed out of the blue.
Jackson faced a lot more pushback when making The Hobbit than he did The Lord of the Rings, something that’s been alluded to by a number of cast and crew members over the years, but at least he stood his ground and ensured that Merry made it out on the other side relatively unscathed.