In 1968 Peter Jackson was only six years old and therefore had no idea of the events that would later have such a big impact on his directorial career.
That was the year author JRR Tolkien refused permission from the Beatles to make a film version of his fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings.
Fast forward 36 years and The Return of the King, the latest film from Jackson’s trilogy adaptation of the literary classic, would equal the record for most Oscar wins in a year – 11, including best director for Jackson. .
Oh, how different things could have been if it had been the Fab Four with Frodo.
The Beatles may have lost to Jackson when it came to bringing The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, but now these popular culture giants have teamed up for the nearly seven-hour, three-part documentary, Get Back, for Disney +.
The project saw Jackson restore more than 50 hours of outtakes from the 1970 documentary Let It Be and put them together to tell a more positive version of what happened in the studio in January 1969.
Working with the Beatles also gave Jackson a chance to ask Sir Paul McCartney what really happened with their version of The Lord of the Rings.
Speaking from New Zealand, Jackson admits he was curious to get to the truth on the matter.
“I gathered little information. I questioned Paul about it. Ringo doesn’t remember much,” Jackson says.
“What I realized is that Denis O’Dell, who was their Apple film producer, who produced The Magic Christian, came up with the idea of doing The Lord of the Rings.
“When they (the Beatles) went to Rishikesh and stayed in India, it was about three months with the Maharishi in early 1968, he sent the books to the Beatles.
“I expect that because there are three, he sent a book to each of the Beatles. I don’t think Ringo had one, but John, Paul and George each had a book of the Lord of the Rings to read in India. they’re excited about it. “
However, the author’s intervention – who died in 1973, three years after the Beatles disbanded – meant it didn’t have to be, Jackson explains.
“In the end, they couldn’t get the rights from Tolkien, because they didn’t like the idea of a pop group making their own history. So he was rejected by him. They tried to do it. No question. For one. moment in time they were seriously contemplating doing it in early 1968. “
It has been suggested that if the film got the green light, it would see McCartney as Frodo, Starr as Sam, Lennon as Gollum, and Harrison as Gandalf. The choice of the Beatles director? Stanley Kubrick, fresh from production 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jackson does not refute these suggestions. “Apparently,” she says, adding, “Paul couldn’t remember exactly when I spoke to him, but I think he did.”
He also acknowledges how different his life would have been if the Beatles had already made The Lord of the Rings.
“Paul said, ‘Well, I’m glad we didn’t, because you have to do yours and I enjoyed your movie.’ But I said to him, “Well, it’s a shame you didn’t, because it would have been a musical.”
“What would the Beatles have done with a Lord of the Rings soundtrack album? It would have been 14 or 15 Beatles songs that would have been truly amazing to hear.
“So I have two minds about it. I would have loved to have listened to that album, but I’m also glad I had the chance to make the films. But those songs would have been fascinating.”
Instead, more than five decades later, Jackson was given his chance to become a part of Beatles history.
In the summer of 2017 he met with the Beatles company Apple Corps, to discuss a possible collaboration on a virtual reality exhibit.
A Beatles obsessive (“I’ve never liked any other band besides the Beatles”), Jackson posed a question he’d always wanted to know the answer to. What happened to the outtakes of Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 documentary Let It Be?
The answer delighted him. “They said, ‘We have it all.’ As a fan I was sitting there saying “Yes.” They said they were thinking of using it for a standalone documentary and they didn’t have a director attached.
“The only time in my life that I’ve done this, I raised my hand and said, ‘If you’re looking for someone, please think of me.'”
He was offered the job at the end of the day and spent the next four years of his life working on Get Back.
He used techniques similar to those employed in his WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old to restore the Beatles’ hours of glorious unreleased footage creating some of their most famous songs from scratch.
Jackson has been at the forefront of technology for more than two decades. Earlier this month he sold the visual effects division of his company Weta Digital for £ 1.2 billion.
However, there is a futuristic project that he thinks will never happen. Jackson says there is no way the Beatles will do an Abba and tour as digital avatars.
“The Beatles have the tragic complication that two of them are not alive. That you could do it and represent George and John in a way that they would be happy, that would be a difficult thing. It all gets much darker. I don’t think you’ll ever see it with. the Beatles. “
However, he is very open to further collaborations with the Beatles.
“I would love to work with the Beatles again. I really enjoyed working with the Beatles now. However, I don’t think there is any other movie collection in the vault that I can get my hands on. This is the golden egg.” .
It may have taken more than half a century, but by teaming up with Jackson, The Lord of the Rings and the Beatles are finally united. One band to rule them all.
Get Back is on Disney + starting November 25th.
- Peter Jackson
- The Beatles
- JRR Tolkien
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