Did you know that The Beatles had entertained the idea of filming The Lord of the Rings with themselves cast in the lead roles?
It’s true. In 1969 the film rights to Lord of the Rings were sold to United Artists, the same film studio to which The Beatles were under contract. The Beatles had promised three films to United artists beginning with A Hard Day’s Night in 1964. Help! followed in 1965 and Yellow Submarine was intended to be the project that released the group from their obligation to United Artists, but it turns out it did not.
In the years between Help! and Yellow Submarine Brian Epstein searched for viable film projects for The Beatles. It has long been known that The Beatles considered a script for a Western entitled A Talent For Loving featuring the Fab Four as englishmen in the old west. The idea was abandoned and the script was eventually filmed in 1969 (also known as Gun Crazy) starring Richard Widmark. Epstein also looked at a script called Shades of Personality which would have cast The Beatles as four sides to one man’s personality. And finally a Beatles version of The Three Musketeers was briefly considered. None of these projects materialized.
But one project which John Lennon was said to have pursued was a film version of Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson spoke to the New Zealand newspaper Evening Post about a discussion he had with Paul McCartney about the film.
“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 said.
George Harrison was going to play Gandalf the wizard, who advises the hapless Frodo, played by McCartney, on his journey. Ringo Starr was to play Frodo’s devoted friend, Sam.
Lennon wanted to tackle the part of the greedy, slimy Gollum, who tracks the heroes, trying all he can to get his “precious”–the all-powerful ring–back in his possession.
With the Lord of the Rings idea nixed The Beatles used the recording session and live footage shot in January, 1969 as their third and final film under the title Let It Be. While I’m very satisfied with the eventual Peter Jackson version, thank you very much, one can only wonder what might have been.