Two of the biggest names in pop culture phenomena in the 20th century were the musical group The Beatles, and the book series The Lord of The Rings by author J.R.R. Tolkien. The Beatles were a music sensation that took the world by storm, who are still relevant and beloved today, while the novels are also as highly-regarded and reread by fans for generations, with films that broke records and won awards for their ability to portray the fantasy stories. Once upon a time, those two worlds almost collided, but it didn’t come to fruition.
The Beatles were huge fans of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth series, and they once hoped that they could portray Hobbits in a film adaptation of the books. In Ian Nathan’s book, Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth, the author explained that several decades ago, The Beatles had an idea to get them onscreen in the shire. They already had a movie deal in place with United Artists, and because the whole band loved The Lord of the Rings novel, they pitched their concept. They’d be part of the cast and provide music. John Lennon led their efforts, and they unexpectedly knocked on director Stanley Kubrick’s (The Shining) door to ask him to direct.
“Kubrick, with four Liverpudlian superstars standing on his doorstop uninvited, did the decent thing and asked them in for tea. He listened to their offer, was very polite, but admitted it wasn’t for him. He was in the middle of planning a colossal life of Napoleon, which would eventually be scuppered when MGM decided that epics were no longer commercial.”
This history was even confirmed to future LOTR director Peter Jackson years later when he met former Beatle, Paul McCartney. According to Nathan’s book, Jackson ran into McCartney at an Oscars event when Return of the King won major honors. Starstruck and nervous, Jackson asked McCartney about The Beatles’ attempt to adapt The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a musical film project.
Jackson told Nathan:
“Paul was going to play Frodo, George was going to play Gandalf, John was Gollum, and Ringo was Sam, I think. And he said that they all showed up at Stanley Kubrick’s house to try and persuade him to be the director. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that.”
During Jackson’s chat with McCartney, the musician also shared they never bothered to ask another director because “Tolkien killed it.”
The Beatles were incredible musicians, but I’ll admit, their film efforts were less than stellar. I think it’s probably better that we ended up with Peter Jackson and his cast of Hobbits in the movies he made. What do you think? Do you think The Beatles starring in The Lord of the Rings could have been good?