Peter Jackson is receiving plenty of media attention in the wake of his epic eight-hour Beatles documentary, Get Back. However, fans of the director may be surprised that he has another tie to the Fab Four. Years before Jackson’s beloved adaptation of Lord of the Rings was filmed, the Beatles attempted to bring off a live-action adaptation themselves. Only to be denied by JRR Tolkien himself.
According to Jackson, the attempt was made in 1968, just two years prior to the band’s dissolution after their producer Denis O’Dell sent the members copies of the book while they were on hiatus in India. According to Jackson, “I expect because there are three, he sent one book to each of the Beatles,” Jackson said. “I don’t think Ringo got one, but John, Paul, and George each got one Lord of the Rings book to read in India. And they got excited about it.”
The musicians became so excited over the work they began to make plans to film it as a movie. Oddly, they did not opt for the obvious casting choice of portraying the four Hobbit protagonists. McCartney was slated to star as Frodo and Ringo would be Samwise but Lennon actually had eyes to portray Gollum. George (ironically the youngest of the four) was to play aged wizard, Gandalf.
While arrangements were being made to secure the rights and begin the project (apparently, Stanley Kubrick was the band’s top choice to direct) the idea was shot down entirely by the author himself. Tolkien, at the time 76 years old and a retired professor of English, was not particularly keen on the idea of pop stars, even the most famous pop stars in the world, portraying the characters in his magnum opus. Indeed, no film or TV adaptation of his works was ever greenlit by the author, and the many that eventually did get made all occurred posthumously.
One wonders what a Lord of the Rings cast made up of four of the most influential musicians of all time might have looked like and, indeed, what it might have sounded like. Jackson lauds their efforts though. “They tried to do it. There’s no doubt about it. For a moment in time, they were seriously contemplating doing that at the beginning of 1968.”
Though we’ll never see a Beatles LOTR, fans can still catch Jackson’s Get Back streaming on the Disney Plus platform. Gathered from a staggering 60 plus hours of raw footage, the documentary features never-before-seen scenes of the group writing the fourteen songs that would be featured on their final album, as well as their iconic rooftop concert on London’s Savile Row.