Stanley Kubrick's 1974 Psychedelic Lord of the Rings Project, starring the Beatles

According to Wikipedia's article on Stanley Kubrick;
When J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights of The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969, the Beatles considered making a film of it, and approached Kubrick as a possible director, but Kubrick told John Lennon he thought the novel unfilmable due to its immensity.[92][93]
So, what if Kubrick had decided otherwise and agreed to make and direct the film in collaboration with the Beatles? His problem with it was that it was too immense but if he was able to compress the entire life and career of Napoleon into an excellent 200 page screenplay then why couldn't he do the same for at least the first part of LOTR.

Now, what kind of movie would have resulted? Being a big fan of the works of Kubrick, my guess is that it would probably be an epic, iconic, artistic and technical masterpiece with some deep subconscious, transcendental meaning and with the Beatles being involved it would probably be seen as a major cultural landmark film of the generation. But what would be the creative conflicts between Kubrick and the Beatles? Would they also be responsible for the soundtrack though Kubrick was pretty meticulous with his his classical music soundtrack selections but I guess he'd have to give up control of that part of the film if he's going to work with the Beatles. And lastly, what effect could being involved in a major project like this have on the Beatles possibly staying together?

And what of the possible casting; the four Beatles; John, Paul, Ringo and George as the four hobbits; Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin respectively, Jack Nicholson as Aragorn (Kubrick was a big fan of Nicholson at the time, considering him for the role of Napoleon), Malcolm McDowell as Legolas, Peter Sellers as a semi-comedic version of Gandalf, Ryan O'Neal as Boromir, Danny DeVito in dual roles as Gimli and Gollum, and Yoko as Galadriel!
It would have been a disaster of hippy proportions. It would take dedicated people who love the book to pull it off.
I agree with Kiat. The Beatles as the hobbits? They weren't exactly renowned for their acting abilities, to say the least. That, and the 70's wasn't exactly an era of good movies. Granted, Kubrick was no John Boorman (who wrote his own script in the 70's for a LotR movie that was so terrible a part of me died inside), but I cannot see it as being halfway decent without a good cast or good effects.
It would have destroyed the careers of all concerned...

Kubrick was right, it was not properly filmable in the 1970's.

Making it a Beatles vehicle would compound the difficulties. It would have pulled the focus of the film off of the story.
Look, I'm a Beatles fan. My pseudonym here is "Glass Onion" and that comes from a song off the white album. So I think I can say that in no way do I underestimate the individual talents of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey, and the merits of their combined efforts.

With that said, I concur that it would be a disaster. Kubrick was a brilliant director, there's always a chance that he could somehow save it, but the group was generally unsuited to such an endeavor.

I won't say that they had no skill whatsoever when it came to film work. But, in so far as they could appear well on screen, it was generally in more or less comedic parts. It's worth noting that prior to Lennon's death, from what I've read there was some consideration of casting him as Dr. Stephen Falken in the film that became 1983's WarGames. I apologize for the digression, but the point is, it wouldn't be a mistake just to put the members of the group in any kind of film. After all, they were in A Hard Days Night and that's a rather well respected film. And while its certainly goofy as hell, Help is alright too, though perhaps I'm being a bit too forgiving. Both Lennon and Starkey appeared in films outside the group context. Starkey was in the magic christian and Lennon was in a film called How I won the war.

No the problem with a Beatles version of LOTR is that

1. The source is too big to fit into a single film, and that's likely all the band would likely commit to.
2. The Beatles presence would overshadow the rest of the film.
3. Even if Kubrick gets the perfect script written and gets at least two movies, and rounds out the cast with credible actors to play the more serious roles in the picture Special effects, such as they were in 1969-1970. (I'm not sure why the OP posits a film in 1974, considering the quote he provides seems to suggest the film would've been made around 69-71.

Now with all that said, I do think that if I have to, given the idea that such a film would somehow get off the ground, I could find some role for Ringo and John Lennon in a film version of LOTR, as I implied earlier both are decent enough choices for comedic relief characters. Also, while he wasn't a brilliant actor, Ringo did end up narrating some television programs later on, so Ringo reading off some kind of introduction to the film wouldn't be as terrible as one might suspect. Indeed, in the Beatles films that we know, Ringo sort of cultivated an "everyman" persona in the context of those films, which could, given the right kind of pressures, and the right kind of leaning, result in a not completely cringe worthy version of Frodo. Though I might be completely off base here.(And rest assured in a Beatles LOTR, that's the part that he would play.)

So I think I could see Lennon playing a vaguely comedic version of Bilbo Baggins in the beginning of the film appearing very briefly, an introductory narration by Ringo. But what of Paul and George? You see, while given the right kind of pressures I think that Ringo isn't too terrible in a film, and Lennon's fun for a quick cameo, I don't know what to do with the rest of the group, and I don't think they really work for any really sustained figure, what you'd need is what amounts to a glorified cameo. Having them be the hobbits who follow Ringo around for the duration of the film would be slightly distracting, for the reasons outlined above.

So, under the best of circumstances, given everything goes right I can see

Lennon as a slightly comedic Bilbo, appearing for all of ten minutes perhaps, a fun little cameo, and little else. Even if it turns out to be bad, it's brief duration could hardly ruin the movie on its own.

Ringo might pull off Frodo, given the absolute right circumstances, this depends a lot on the skill around him in my honest opinion.

But generally speaking those kind of circumstances wouldn't happen, and so the film would end up being a disaster. If nothing else it would almost certainly have a slight comedic tinge to it that might be considered somewhat disrespectful.

Even as a Beatles fan, and to a lesser extent a Kubrick fan, I have to say I'm happy this film was not made. I realize my enjoyment of the group may have clouded my judgment concerning their acting abilities, or perhaps it has allowed me to be too kind to such a project, so let me say I don't see the project working. And in defending the groups acting ability I was just saying that casting a member of the group in a part doesn't automatically ruin a film.
Yes, but if Lord of the Rings were to have been made with The Beatles, who cannot imagine Yoko Ono running around, moaning, "My precious." :D
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I thought the proposed cast list was:
Paul as Frodo
Ringo as Sam
George as Gandalf
John as Smeagol


Lord of the Rings being filmed in 1974 would enjoy a very, very large cast. Unless the studio pulled a Planet of the Apes and decided close up fights is better than long shots.

The reason it is in that "unfilmable" area is cause those who follow the books have this odd idea that anything short of the novel is a failure. So while Kubrik could make an interesting LOTR many would speak out.

"Why does Golem seem to be a drug addict?"

"The Beatles cannot act!"

"That Hobbit was clearly a foot to tall."

"They really thought they could cram those books into only 3 hours?"

"Why did they cut out X that was my favorite part."

Interesting part is how LORT would do prior to the mass marketing ploys that Planet of the Apes and Star Wars did. If Kubrik avoids it the thing becomes another flop from a great director, if he embraces it than we can freely assume a lot of cash coming in.
Bear in mind that I love the Beatles...and I really, REALLY want to convince myself that The Fabs + The Kube + Lord of the Rings = epic psychedelic awesomeness never to be repeated.

But I can't.

I hate to do it, but I've got to go with Glass Onion on this one: the result would have been a cinematic catastrophe on the level of Gigli. Especially if we go with OP's casting selection. Yoko Ono as Galadriel?! God almighty...

The main problem, as I see it, is that when you cast the Fabs it's no longer a Lord of the Rings flick, it's a Beatles film, and that's gonna warp the proceedings somewhat. And I have a hard time seeing the Beatles as Hobbitses. :p
Bear in mind that I love the Beatles...and I really, REALLY want to convince myself that The Fabs + The Kube + Lord of the Rings = epic psychedelic awesomeness never to be repeated.

But I can't.

I hate to do it, but I've got to go with Glass Onion on this one: the result would have been a cinematic catastrophe on the level of Gigli. Especially if we go with OP's casting selection. Yoko Ono as Galadriel?! God almighty...

The main problem, as I see it, is that when you cast the Fabs it's no longer a Lord of the Rings flick, it's a Beatles film, and that's gonna warp the proceedings somewhat. And I have a hard time seeing the Beatles as Hobbitses. :p
Well, as I said, I think a LOTR film that uses a Beatle or two in the cast isn't too problematic, in so far as positing a Lord of the Rings film in the seventies is capable of avoiding problems. Lennon having some kind of glorified cameo is workable, or hell Lennon as Smiegel/Gollum could work, knowing him. Ringo would have made an okay Frodo in my own opinion. It is problematic, but mostly, its problematic because of the groups comedic impulses and the fact that the technology is so limited for that sort of thing during the time period in question. Also, they would likely turn the film into a comedy. I mean, AHDN, Help, and MMT all had a lot of humor in them, so did Yellow Submarine but the group didn't have much to do with that as you might think. Point is, they'd find out a way to intentionally make the material funny, and that would probably be a bad thing.

LOTR is not the best option for a late period Beatles film. I like the Shades of a Personality idea a lot better, I'm not entirely sure if that was a real thing or not, and that might have been a bit too artsy. But I think when dealing with the group, simplicity's the word when you're trying to make a film.
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Actually, I'm wondering if another rejected idea, which seems to have been considered by the group might not work better than LOTR.

The Three Musketeers

After all, the source, from what I've read is intended to be vaguely comedic, so it'd certainly work better in that regard.


I saw something about it on a documentary once. Apparently Paul would have played Frodo, Ringo would have played Sam, George would have played Gandalf and John would have played Gollum.

Probably would have been catastrophic but still interesting to watch.
The special effects tecnology available in late-60s-early 70s is not too much distant to that used by Peter Jackson from the trilogy.
A game of scale for actors,matte,models.
Obviously would be very expansive.
The real problem is the duration of the movie.

So i see only three possibilities:
1- two or three movies
I think that two movies is much probable choice; also the Barsky cartoon was in two movies,and i think that the better comparison for imagine the Beatles/Kubrick LOTR is the Barsky project.

2-A very compressed LOTR (but always a three ours and half movie) similar to the aborted cartoon of the late 50s (cut the Ancient Forest,Bombadil,Barrow-downs,Edoras ,Rohirrim, Helms deep battle, the final with Saruman in the Shire,and maybe Saruman too).

3-A movie from "The Hobbit",much more in the spirit of the Beatles.

P.S. i have fear that the movie (or the movies) would be a giant flop to the box office,and would kill every movies based on Tolkien work for ever.
Not Again!

[walks back to computer after having spent three days trying to dislodge the thought of Danny DiVito as Jean-Luc Picard from his head. Forcibly.]

Well, that feels much better, I have totally forgotten what I was thinking and the brick wall is still standing.

What's this? Beatles? LOTR? GAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

[Runs from room, heading back to brick wall]


Are you guys kidding me?

Octopus Garden said:
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus' garden in the shade

I'd ask my friends to come and see
An octopus' garden with me
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade.

We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves
Resting our head on the sea bed
In an octopus' garden near a cave

We would sing and dance around
because we know we can't be found
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade

We would shout and swim about
The coral that lies beneath the waves
(Lies beneath the ocean waves)
Oh what joy for every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy and they're safe
(Happy and they're safe)

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden with you.
Hobbits battle the "Watcher in the Water" before entering Moria...

Clearly this project would have been extremely well-put together.


It does sound like the kind of insane project moviemakers of the 1970s tended to come up with. At best, it gave "Apocalypse Now", and at worst, "Zardoz". Now, Kubrick + LOTR is an interesting equation, but I share the consensus that Kubrick + LOTR + the Beatles is just too much.
I agree. A Stanely Kubrick Lord of the Rings project is an interesting prospect, and if successful, it might mean that Star Wars gets taken a lot more seriously at the 1978 Academy Awards, but a Stanely Kubrick Lord of the Rings film starring the Beatles is a perscription for disaster. I'm also having an interesting image of Alec Guiness having chose between playing Obi-wan and Gandalf.


Why don't you just adapt the POD a bit. Instead of having Kubrick and the Beatles make it in the 70's. Why don't you have Lennon survive his assasination attempt. And later on early 90's or late 80's The Beatles come back to Kubrick to try the project. There's far better film making tech and lots and lots of talented actors to choose from aswell the Beatles could have better acting skills by this time.


I have more proof this project is totally awesome!

Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

He wear no shoeshine he got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger he shoot Coca-Cola
He say "I know you, you know me"
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together right now over me

He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his arms, yeah, you can feel his disease
Come together right now over me

He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say "one and one and one is three"
Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
Come together right now over me
Perfect song for when the fellowship "comes together" over Frodo...

You can't see it but Gimli's tapping his foot to this awesome tune.