The Beatles Wanted to Play Hobbits in a Film, But Were Turned Down

As fans celebrate Hobbit Day on September 22, it’s worth noting how The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings left their mark on movie history through Peter Jackson’s adaptations. Decades before the films landed in his hands, The Beatles were trying to make Middle-earth magic in their own on-screen version. That’s right. With John Lennon at the helm, the band wanted to bring the Hobbits to life, but another famous filmmaker shot down their idea.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles; 'The Hobbit' inflatable billboard
The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr | Mondadori via Getty Images; ‘The Hobbit’ inflatable book | Arne Dedert/AFP/Getty Images

The Beatles courted Stanley Kubrick to direct their ‘Hobbit’ project

J.R.R. Tolkien was extremely protective of his Hobbits and The Lord of the Rings epics, and film rights for his books changed hands several times. At one point, United Artists owned the property and tapped playwright Peter Shaffer for a LOTR script, but it did not move forward.

UA then offered the project to John Boorman, and according to Ian Nathan’s book, Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth, he spent six months on a fantastical script. However, the story was full of sex, singing, and jesting. Galadriel deflowered Frodo, and Aragorn kissed Boromir. The studio nixed it.

And then The Beatles had an idea. They already had a movie deal in place with United Artists, and because the whole band loved The Lord of the Rings novel, they pitched their concept. They’d be part of the cast and provide music. John Lennon led their efforts, and they unexpectedly knocked on Stanley Kubrick’s door to ask him to direct.

“Kubrick, with four Liverpudlian superstars standing on his doorstop uninvited, did the decent thing and asked them in for tea,” wrote Nathan. “He listened to their offer, was very polite, but admitted it wasn’t for him. He was in the middle of planning a colossal life of Napoleon, which would eventually be scuppered when MGM decided that epics were no longer commercial.”

Peter Jackson confirmed the Beatles rumor about ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie

Peter Jackson heard murmurings that The Beatles once set their sights on turning Tolkien’s beloved books into a movie. It was a story that grew legs, and when he finally had the chance to learn the truth, he found it amusing.

According to Nathan’s book, Jackson ran into Paul McCartney at an Oscars event when Return of the King won major honors. Starstruck and nervous, he asked McCartney about The Beatles’ attempt to adapt The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a musical film project.

“Paul was going to play Frodo, George was going to play Gandalf, John was Gollum, and Ringo was Sam, I think,” Jackson told Nathan. “And he said that they all showed up at Stanley Kubrick’s house to try and persuade him to be the director. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that.”

During Jackson’s chat with McCartney, the musician also shared they never bothered to ask another director because “Tolkien killed it.”

McCartney loves Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ films

A diehard fan of The Beatles, Jackson humbly accepted McCartney’s compliments about his work on The Lord of the Rings series. He found out that the beloved Beatle and his family had a holiday ritual that entailed watching each new movie upon its release in theaters. Their mutual admiration eventually led to Jackson’s Beatles documentary.

Perhaps it would have been a treat to see the Fab Four slay some Orcs or ride through Rivendell. But many fans — including John Boorman and Paul McCartney — agree that Jackson’s adaptations are the unrivaled and the gold standard. Relive the magic by streaming The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit films on HBO Max or Amazon Prime.

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