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Friday, December 3, 2021

Peter Jackson on how Tolkien stopped a Beatles LOTR film


In 1968 Peter Jackson was only six and so had no idea of the events taking place that would later have such a big impact on his career as a director.

That was the year author JRR Tolkien refused The Beatles permission to adapt his fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings into a film.

Fast forward 36 years, and The Return of the King, the final instalment of Jackson’s trilogy adaptation of the literary classic, would tie the record for the most Oscar wins in a single year – 11, including best director for Jackson.

What a different storey things could have been if the Fab Four had been there with Frodo.

The Beatles may have lost out to Jackson when it came to bringing The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, but now these pop culture titans have teamed up for the three-part, nearly seven-hour documentary Get Back, which will be available on Disney+.

Jackson restored more than 50 hours of outtakes from the 1970 documentary Let It Be and pieced them together to tell a more positive version of what happened in the studio in January 1969.

Working with The Beatles also provided Jackson with the opportunity to question Sir Paul McCartney about what happened with their version of The Lord of the Rings.

Jackson admits, speaking from New Zealand, that he was eager to learn the truth.

“I’ve been scrounging for bits and pieces of information. I’ve been questioning Paul about it. “Ringo doesn’t have a lot of memories,” Jackson says.

“From what I understand, Denis O’Dell, their Apple film producer who produced The Magic Christian, came up with the idea of doing Lord of the Rings.”

“When they (The Beatles) went to Rishikesh and stayed in India for about three months with the Maharishi in early 1968, he sent the books to The Beatles.”

“I expect he sent one book to each of the Beatles because there are three.” Ringo did not receive one, but John, Paul, and George each received one Lord of the Rings book to read in India. And they became enthralled by it.”

However, Jackson explains that the author’s intervention – who died in 1973, three years after The Beatles split – meant that it was not to be.

“Ultimately, they were unable to obtain the rights from Tolkien because he did not like the idea of a pop group performing his storey.” As a result, he nixed it. They attempted it. There’s no denying it. At the beginning of 1968, they were seriously considering doing so.”

The Lord of the Rings trilogy starred Elijah Wood as Frodo and Sean Astin as Sam

It has been suggested that if the film had been made, McCartney would have played Frodo, Starr would have played Sam, Lennon would have played Gollum, and Harrison would have played Gandalf. Who was the director of choice for the Beatles? Stanley Kubrick, fresh from the completion of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jackson makes no response to these suggestions. “Apparently,” he says, adding, “Paul couldn’t recall when I spoke to him, but I believe that is the case.”

He also acknowledges how different his life might have been if The Beatles had completed The Lord of the Rings.

“Paul said, ‘Well, I’m glad we didn’t do it, because you got to do yours, and I enjoyed your film.'” ‘Well, it’s a shame you didn’t do it, because it would have been a musical,’ I told him.

“Can you imagine what The Beatles would have done with a Lord of the Rings soundtrack album?” That would have been 14 or 15 Beatles songs, which would have been amazing to listen to.

“As a result, I’m undecided. I wish I could have heard that album, but I’m glad I got to work on the films. Those songs, on the other hand, would have been fascinating.”

Instead, Jackson has been given his own chance to be a part of Beatles history more than five decades later.

He met with The Beatles’ company, Apple Corps, in the summer of 2017 to discuss a possible collaboration on a virtual reality exhibition.

The Beatles: Peter Jackson says they are the only band he’s ever liked

Jackson, a Beatles fan (“I never liked any other band than The Beatles”), asked a question he had always wanted to know the answer to. What had become of Michael Lindsay-1970 Hogg’s documentary Let It Be’s outtakes?

He was overjoyed with the response. “‘We’ve got it all,’ they said. As a fan, I sat there thinking, ‘Yeah.’ They stated that they were considering using it for a stand-alone documentary but did not have a filmmaker attached.

“The only time I’ve ever done this in my life, I raised my hand and said, ‘If you’re looking for somebody, please think of me.'”

By the end of the day, he’d been offered the job, and he’d spent the next four years of his life working on Get Back.

Silent film footage from World War One was painstakingly restored by Peter Jackson

He used techniques similar to those used in his World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old to restore hours of previously unseen footage of The Beatles creating some of their most famous songs from scratch.

For more than two decades, Jackson has been at the cutting edge of technology. He sold the visual effects division of his Weta Digital company earlier this month for an eye-watering £1.2 billion.

Peter Jackson

However, there is one futuristic project that he believes will never be realised. According to Jackson, The Beatles will not pull an Abba and go on tour as digital avatars.

“The tragic complication with the Beatles is that two of them are no longer alive.” It would be difficult to do that while also representing George and John in a way that they would be pleased with. That becomes a lot more shady. That’s something I don’t think you’ll ever see with The Beatles.”

He is, however, eager to work with The Beatles again.

“I’d love to collaborate with The Beatles again.” I’ve now had the pleasure of working with The Beatles. However, I don’t believe there is any other film collection in the vault that I can access. This is the fabled golden egg.”

It may have taken more than a half-century, but by collaborating with Jackson, The Lord of the Rings and The Beatles are finally united. There will be only one band to rule them all.

Get Back is on Disney+ from 25 November.

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