JRR Tolkien snubbed The Beatles’ request to film a Lord Of The Rings movie in 1968

Get Back
(Image credit: Disney + / Apple Corps Ltd. / WingNut Films Ltd)

After the unforeseen madness of the past 18 months, very little surprises us anymore, but we must confess that ‘JRR Tolkien snubs John Lennon’s offer to play Gollum in a Beatles-directed film of The Lord Of The Rings saga’ wasn’t a sentence that we envisaged typing out today. And yet, here we are. 

As film director Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated, three-part, eight-hour Beatles documentary The Beatles: Get Back debuts on the Disney + channel, Jackson has been conducting  an extensive promotional campaign for the film, which has served up some fascinating titbits of information about a band we all thought we knew everything about. Among these is the revelation that The Beatles were super-keen to adapt JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy saga for the big screen, and were looking at Stanley Kubrick to direct before their approach was nixed by Tolkien himself.

Discussing the matter with the BBC, Jackson said:

"What I understand is that Denis O'Dell, who was their Apple film producer, who produced The Magic Christian, had the idea of doing Lord of The Rings.

"When they (The Beatles) went to Rishikesh and stayed in India, it was about three months with the Maharishi at the beginning of 1968, he sent the books to The Beatles.

"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."

"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."

It has been rumoured that had the proposal been endorsed by Tolkien, it would have seen Paul McCartney playing Frodo, ,John Lennon as Gollum, George Harrison as Gandalf and Ringo Starr as Sam. Perhaps it was for the best…

The first part of The Beatles: Get Back is streaming now on Disney+. The second segment will air tomorrow  (November 26) and the final instalment comes on November. 27. A Disney+ subscription is needed to access the documentary.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.