While Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most critically acclaimed film series of all time, it could’ve turned out completely different. Before the likes of Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen were cast, familiar faces such as Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, and even Vin Diesel were considered for roles. And prior to Jackson’s take on J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, a certain group of mop-topped pop stars tried to get an adaptation going.
The Beatles, of all people, wanted to star in a Lord of the Rings movie once upon a time after film producer Denis O'Dell presented them with the idea back in the late '60s. This all comes from Jackson himself, who relayed the story while promoting his new Disney+ documentary Get Back, which is all about the iconic band.
J.R.R. Tolkien turned down The Beatles
According to BBC, Jackson had the chance to ask Paul McCartney about this story while working on Get Back, discovering that while The Beatles wanted to make the movie, it was Tolkien himself who turned the idea down. Jackson explained:
"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."
Rumor has it that McCartney would have played Frodo, George Harrison would’ve portrayed Gandalf, Ringo Starr would’ve been Sam, and, funnily enough, John Lennon would have played Gollum. “Paul couldn’t remember exactly when I spoke to him, but I believe that is the case,” Jackson said.
It goes without saying that a Lord of the Rings movie starring The Beatles would have been much different than the trilogy we eventually got. But even McCartney realized things turned out fine in the end. As Jackson recalled, “Paul said, ‘Well I’m glad we didn’t do it, because you got to do yours and I liked your film.'”
The next attempt at a Middle-earth adaptation will come when Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series makes its September 2022 debut.