The Beatles Almost Starred in a 1960s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Adaptation—Here’s Why It Never Happened

Remember that one Lord of the Rings adaptation from the 1960s, with George Harrison as Gandalf and Ringo Starr as Samwise? Do you remember John Lennon as Gollum? Where “Help!” plays in the background while Paul McCartney as Frodo struggles with his moral obligation to destroy the One Ring?

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If you’re reading this and wondering why it all sounds like an elaborate fever dream, that’s because it basically is—”The Beatles Present The Lord of the Rings” is the movie that never was, but maybe the one we needed all along. The world at that time simply wasn’t ready for what The Beatles had to offer.

While the 1978 Ralph Bakshi film is a piece of work, let’s say, and Peter Jackson took the story to completely new heights in 2001, The Beatles were planning something much more elaborate and far-reaching for the mid-1960s. For instance, their first choice of director was Stanley Kubrick, who had recently completed Dr. Strangelove in 1964. The band would provide the music, while the film would be produced under The Beatles’ film imprint, Apple Films.

[RELATED: 3 Songs That Were Scrapped by the Beatles but Became Hits in Their Solo Careers]

The Beatles Wanted to Make a Lord of the Rings Film, But They Were Outright Rejected

Kubrick said no—specifically, he said the concept was “unfilmable.” A major blow to The Beatles’ creative vision. Another blow would be the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien himself refused to give the band the rights to The Lord of the Rings. Allegedly, Tolkien had beef with The Beatles as well. According to a 1964 letter, Tolkien took issue with a house three doors down from him where a rock band practiced.

“In a house three doors away dwells a member of a group of young men who are evidently aiming to turn themselves into a Beatle Group,” Tolkien wrote. “On days when it falls to his turn to have a practice session the noise is indescribable.”

It’s unclear whether Tolkien’s singular dislike of The Beatles led to him axing the movie, or whether he just didn’t like the idea of a rock band taking on his epic trilogy. The subject matter is often dark and complex, which didn’t exactly mesh with The Beatles’ image at the time. Still, The Beatles x The Lord of the Rings remains the adaptation that got away, and possibly for good reason.

Featured Image by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images

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