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Stephen Colbert makes Peter Jackson recast The Lord Of The Rings with The Beatles

To be fair, Colbert keeps his 'no-LOTR talk' promise for most of their interview

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Stephen Colbert, Peter Jackson
Stephen Colbert, Peter Jackson
Screenshot: The Late Show

Appearing remotely from his home in Wellington, New Zealand due to COVID restrictions couldn’t keep Peter Jackson safe from Stephen Colbert’s various manias on Wednesday. Naturally, everybody is aware of how Gollum-esque is Colbert’s love of peppering the director with questions about Colbert’s precious Lord Of The Rings. But, in their extended chat about Jackson’s upcoming, four-years-in-the-making, three-part Beatles documentary series, The Beatles: Get Back, Colbert largely kept to his initial pledge to refrain from talking Tolkien in favor of what he, rather shockingly, admitted might be his new favorite trilogy from the director.

With Jackson telling Colbert that they could get in a lot of trouble should the host reveal that he was allowed to watch some of the top secret raw footage culled from the band’s famous final sessions, the pair yet reminisced about the mutually emotional experience. “I seem to remember we even shed tears that night,” Jackson noted, as the two Beatlemaniacs spoke feelingly about what Jackson promises will be a more complex and nuanced portrait of the end of the legendary band. “They love each other,” explained Jackson, “They’re having an enormous amount of fun,” continuing to belie the fractious and snippy version of the band captured in director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 documentary, Let It Be.

And while Colbert does break his no-Lord Of The Rings promise near the end of the duo’s second segment, it’s really all Jackson’s fault. Setting the scene for a poignant sequence in his documentary, Jackson—unprompted by Colbert, it must be said—draws a parallel between Paul and Ringo and a particular pair of hobbits. The scene in question shows McCartney and Starr as, essentially, the last two remaining Beatles, as George Harrison had left the band abruptly, and there was serious question whether John Lennon’s studio absence was just John being John or evidence that he’d followed George out the door.

“We set out to save the Shire, Sam, and we did it, but not for me,” is how Jackson summed up the situation. Noting how the still shockingly young musicians and friends (George was only 25 when the Beatles finally ended) had essentially conquered the world, Jackson told Colbert, sadly, that everything they’d accomplished had left them irretrievably isolated, unable to go back and be the simple rock and roll band he says they longed to be during the Let It Be sessions. Indeed, Jackson brought along an illuminating clip from his documentary where the spontaneous drop-by of pal and keyboard virtuoso Billy Preston saw the four exhausted Beatles perk up and start having fun playing together for the first time in forever.


Seeing his opening, Colbert did finally attempt to bring his two most cherished Peter Jackson projects together, asking his idol and occasional collaborator to cast each Beatle as a Lord Of The Rings character. And while Jackson feigned weariness at the exercise, it was clearly something he’d given a lot of thought, noting that The Beatles had, indeed, once talked about starring in their very own LOTR adaptation.

The answers make a lot of sense, honestly, as, hearkening back to his initial comparison, Jackson saw Paul and Ringo as Frodo and Sam, the latter’s stalwart loyalty in the face of the seemingly inevitable perhaps the sort of thing to make a Stephen Colbert get all misty. George, with his wizard-like remove and spirituality is a no-brainer for Gandalf, according to Jackson, while fans are left to speculate just why John is Jackson’s one and only choice to play Gollum. “Slam-dunk, honestly,” Jackson affirms of the casting, noting how The Beatles themselves had imagined themselves in those very roles, and leaving superfan Colbert’s head spinning in delighted what-ifs.


The Beatles: Get Back premieres today on Disney Plus.