500x_beatleslotrAccording to First Things, J.R.R. Tolkien once nixed a film adaptation of his classic novel, Lord of the Rings, by the Beatles. Better yet, the film was to be directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Via Patheos, First Things lays out the original plans:

Once upon a time, the Fab Four—having slain the pop charts—decided to set their sights on the Dark Lord Sauron by making a Lord of the Rings feature, starring themselves. One man dared stand in their way: J.R.R. Tolkien.

According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the ’60s—and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.

More details came from a conversation between Paul McCartney and Peter Jackson, who successfully managed to coerce the Tolkien estate into giving up the film rights to the trilogy (something that Christopher Tolkien still hasn’t lived down):

McCartney told Jackson about the failed scheme when the two bumped into each other at the Academy Awards: “It was something John was driving and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it,” Jackson told the Wellington Evening Post in 2002.

“There probably would’ve been some good songs coming off the album,” said Jackson.

That Tolkien didn’t care for the Beatles will come as no surprise to fans of either one, but Tolkien’s letters give us a hint that his opposition to the Beatles may have had a more personal dimension.

I think the real question, though, is whether the Beatles/Kubrick film would have managed to feel even more like an acid trip than the terribly awesome (or awesomely terrible) Ralph Bakshi adaptation.

  • Adam (@sensawunda) March 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Why did this not happen?! Damn you Tolkein’s bones. Damn you.

  • Hannah March 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Oh thank god for that!!

  • Adam Whitehead March 29, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Peter Jackson didn’t convince the Tolkien Estate into giving up the film rights. J.R.R. Tolkien himself sold them in the late 1960s to film producer Saul Zaentz (presumably after extracting a promise not to let the Fab Four anywhere near them) for a large lump sum so he could secure his children and grandchildren’s future. Zaentz then hired Ralph Bakshi to make the animated 1978 movie (after Tolkien’s death) and later re-let the film rights to New Line and Jackson to make the live-action films. By that stage the Estate – meaning Christopher Tolkien – had become opposed to the idea of making films at all based on the Middle-earth books, but they didn’t have any legal power to stop them.

  • Olaf Keith March 29, 2013 at 2:59 am

    There is a book that has a very good summary of the various attempts of making THE LORD OF THE RINGS into a movie including the original sale of the movie rights and what happened to them afterwards. Quite a complicated and fascinating read. THE FRODO FRANCHISE: THE LORD OF THE RINGS AND MODERN HOLLYWOOD by Kristin Thompson.

  • James March 29, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Like Peter Jackson, I would have been interested in hearing a Beatles album based on the Lord of the Rings. Though, if the Beatles’ other film projects are anything to go by, the movie would have been dreadful.