The Beatles tried to make a ‘Lord of The Rings’ movie but J.R.R. Tolkien turned them down

The beatles
The Beatles photographed in 1966. Clockwise from top left: Paul MacCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Roger Viollet Collection/Getty Images
  • The Beatles tried to make a “Lord of The Rings” film in the 1960s.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the “Lord of The Rings” trilogy, turned down the band’s offer.
  • The BBC reports that Paul McCartney was set to play Frodo and John Lennon was Gollum.

The Beatles attempted to make a big-screen adaption of “Lord of The Rings” in 1968, but the band was denied rights to the fantasy books by J.R.R. Tolkien, according to filmmaker Peter Jackson. 

Jackson — who is best known for his sprawling trilogy based on Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings” series — is currently on the press run for his latest work “The Beatles: Get Back,” a docuseries crafted from footage of the band recording their last album, “Let It Be,” when he told the BBC that he had discovered the fab four had been keen on adapting Tolkien. 

“I’ve been scraping together little pieces of information. I’ve been interrogating Paul about it. Ringo doesn’t remember much,” Jackson said.

Peter Jackson Jonathan Leibson Getty
Filmmaker Peter Jackson. Jonathan Leibson/Getty

The filmmaker continued to say that the band were sent copies of the “Lord of The Rings” books by their producer, Denis O’Dell, when they visited India in the late 60s.  

“I expect because there are three, he sent one book to each of the Beatles. I don’t think Ringo got one, but John, Paul, and George each got one ‘Lord of The Rings’ book to read in India. And they got excited about it,” Jackson said. 

However, Jackson said Tolkien, the author of the fantasy novels, was not enthusiastic about handing over big-screen rights to The Beatles.  

“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.”

Lord of the rings

The BBC reports that if the film had made its way into production, the cast would have been composed of Paul McCartney as Frodo, John Lennon as Gollum, George Harrison as Gandalf, and Ringo Starr as Sam. And the band’s choice of director was Stanley Kubrick who at the time was best known for his work on “Lolita,” “Spartacus,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

As mentioned above, a “Lord of The Rings” big-screen adaptation was finally produced in the early ’00s by Peter Jackson.

The filmmaker famously shot all three movies in his “Lord of The Rings” trilogy simultaneously and entirely in his native New Zealand from 11 October 1999 until 22 December 2000. The trilogy went on to become one of the most successful film series of all time taking home almost $US3 ($AU4) billion at the worldwide box office. And in 2014, Jackson concluded the spin-off “Hobbit” film series.