The Lord of the Rings always ranks high on the lists of the greatest fantasy works of all time and is one of those rare series where the film adaptations are equally beloved. Peter Jackson’s trilogy is often cited as the most significant of its kind but, at one point in time, the Beatles had different plans regarding a unique adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus.
Over the years, the Beatles often found themselves being associated with all kinds of cinematic projects. On one such occasion, they were also bizarrely linked to the 1969 gem Satyricon by Federico Fellini because the director wanted to create something unique starring all kinds of icons such as Groucho Marx, and Brigitte Bardot, as well as the Beatles among others.
In 1968, the band also got the idea to conduct an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings themselves after reading the famous trilogy during their well-known trip to India. A producer at Apple told them to read it and their exposure to the material got all of them excited about an adaptation but John Lennon was the one actively pushing for it.
There had been many attempts to adapt the sprawling fantasy vision of Tolkien to other mediums, including a BBC radio adaptation that had been dramatised by Terence Tiller and Tolkien had edited the scripts himself. These scripts were considered to be lost but were recently discovered by an Oxford University researcher at the BBC archives.
In an interview with the BBC, Peter Jackson elaborated on the plans that the Beatles had for a Lord of the Rings adaptation. According to the reports, Paul McCartney would star as the beloved Frodo while Ringo Starr would play the role of his sidekick Samwise. Surprisingly, John Lennon wanted to take on the part of Gollum and George Harrison was ready to star as Gandalf.
Peter Jackson believed that the casting was perfect and he would personally have preferred it that way if he was the director. The Beatles had someone else in mind when they were talking about a potential filmmaker to helm this incredible project and that was none other than Stanley Kubrick who had just made his masterpiece – 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Kubrick probably never got to hear the pitch because the band never managed to acquire the book rights as Tolkien “didn’t like the idea of a pop group doing his story.” Although Jackson’s trilogy has now become the definitive guidebook for future adaptations, fans will always be curious about the potential of this fantastical collaboration and the original soundtrack that would have followed.