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Peter Jackson sheds new light on The Beatles’ failed ‘The Lord of the Rings’ adaptation

The 'Get Back' director has expanded on the Fab Four's proposed take on Tolkien's masterwork

By Joe Goggins

The Beatles play their final concert on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters in London, as documented in 'Get Back'.
The Beatles play their final concert on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters in London, as documented in 'Get Back'. (Photo: Disney+)

Peter Jackson has discussed The Beatles’ failed attempt to film ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ in a new interview.

The New Zealand director, who’s extensive three-part documentary on the band is premiering on Disney+ this weekend, first broached the topic in a 2002 interview with People, whilst promoting his own, hugely successful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. 

“It was something John [Lennon] was driving, and Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage, but he didn’t like the idea of The Beatles doing it,” said Jackson in 2002. “So he killed it. There probably would’ve been some good songs coming off the [soundtrack] album.”

Jackson has now expanded on the situation in a new interview with BBC News to discuss ‘Get Back’, the first part of which premiered yesterday (November 25).

He told entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson: “I’ve been scraping together little pieces of information. I’ve been interrogating Paul [McCartney] about it. Ringo [Starr] doesn’t remember much. What I understand is that Denis O’Dell, who was their Apple film producer, who produced ‘The Magic Christian’, had the idea of doing Lord of The Rings.”

“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.”

It has long been rumoured that casting for the Fab Four’s take would have seen McCartney play Frodo Baggins, Starr play Samwise Gamgee, Lennon portray Gollum and George Harrison take on the role of Gandalf, with Stanley Kubrick in line to direct. “Apparently,” said Jackson of the possibility. “Paul couldn’t remember exactly when I spoke to him, but I believe that is the case.”

McCartney, for his part, expressed relief that it was Jackson who ultimately brought the book to the big screen. “Paul said, ‘Well I’m glad we didn’t do it, because you got to do yours and I liked your film.’ But I said to him, ‘Well, it’s a shame you didn’t do it, because it would have been a musical.’

“What would The Beatles have done with a ‘Lord of The Rings’ soundtrack album? That would have been 14 or 15 Beatles songs that would have been pretty incredible to listen to. So I’ve got two minds about it. I would have loved to hear that album, but I’m also glad I got the chance to do the films. But those songs would have been fascinating.”

Jackson’s ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ remains one of the most critically and commercially successful movie trilogies of all time, winning 16 Academy Awards and grossing $2.99 billion worldwide.

The second part of ‘Get Back’ arrives on Disney+ today (November 26), with the third and final instalment available from tomorrow (November 27).