Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, and Sean Astin played the cherub-faced, shaggy haired hobbits in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy. And as difficult as it is to picture anyone else playing Frodo, Merry, and Samwise, there were originally plans to make a very different film based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, featuring some other shaggy-haired guys: The Beatles.
As Variety explains, in the late ‘60s, after getting a taste of acting by playing themselves on A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, the band was ready to take on fictional characters. As the story goes, Apple Films head Denis O’Dell was in search of a new project for The Beatles. Coincidentally, United Artists had just gotten the rights to make a Lord Of The Rings movie.
“[O’Dell] sent the books to The Beatles. I expect because there are three, he sent one book to each of The Beatles. 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,” Peter Jackson explained to BBC.
O’Dell apparently wanted it to be a musical, which sounds more like the “Prince Of Parties” scene of Flight Of The Conchords than a movie fit for a fantasy series of such magnitude. Although, admittedly, the idea of The Beatles writing peppy, trippy songs about Middle Earth is pretty amusing.
John Lennon, the lankiest of the bunch, was decided to play Gollum; Paul McCartney, the pretty boy of The Beatles, would’ve played Frodo; George Harrison, who had the best beard of all four, would be Gandalf; and Ringo Starr would be Sam.
Stanley Kubrick was approached to direct, but the auteur declined to be involved, reportedly referring to the project as “unfilmable.” To make matters worse for The Beatles, Tolkien also turned down the opportunity to adapt his novels into…well, that.
As Jackson told BBC, “Ultimately, they couldn’t get the rights from Tolkien, because he didn’t like the idea of a pop group doing his story. So it got nixed by him. 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 the Fab Four didn’t get a chance to go to Middle Earth, Peter Jackson got to work on a major Beatles project recently. The filmmaker made Get Back, the Disney+ limited docuseries that features hours of unseen footage captured by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the 1970 Beatles documentary film, Let It Be, about the making of their album of the same name.