March 03, 2002
Beatles had wizard idea for their own Lord of the Rings film
Richard Brooks, Arts Editor
THE BEATLES almost embarked on their most magical mystery tour by making
a film of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings more than 30 years ago.
According to their film producer's forthcoming memoirs, John Lennon was
to have been the wizard Gandalf - played by Sir Ian McKellen in Peter
Jackson's film released last Christmas - and Paul McCartney would have
been the hobbit Frodo Baggins. Ringo Starr and George Harrison would
also have had roles.
The directors David Lean and Stanley Kubrick each had talks about making
the film in the late 1960s. Denis O'Dell, who would have produced the
film, said: "The deal was never concluded as there were problems with
the directors and the Beatles themselves lost interest."
O'Dell had earlier worked on the Beatles films A Hard Day's Night and
Magical Mystery Tour and went on to be a director of Apple, which ran
the group's business interests.
Now O'Dell, who was involved with the Beatles for six years from the
mid-1960s and remains a friend of McCartney, has decided to tell his
version of events, including the band's break-up in 1970. He was
immortalised in the song You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) with the
line sung by Lennon: "Let's hear it for Denis O'Dell."
In the book, to be published next month by Peter Owen, O'Dell says: "We
were all very keen on the Lord of the Rings project. I gave them the
books and it was a serious idea."
They even took the books to India when they went to live with their
guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and the pop star Donovan, who was also
interested in the film.
Lean, best known for films such as Great Expectations and Lawrence of
Arabia, told O'Dell he was a fan of A Hard Day's Night, but said he had
a "little romantic film to do first in Ireland" - the Oscar-winning
O'Dell and the Beatles then turned to Kubrick, but the American director
said the books were unfilmable. "It was a shame," said O'Dell. "John
even thought there could have been an album of music based around the
In O'Dell's book, At the Apple's Core, he also writes of his time with
the Beatles in India. He recalls that Ringo, unlike the other three, had
a miserable time. "He couldn't stand the food," said O'Dell. "He had his
own baked beans."
He thinks the Beatles merely dabbled in acting, although Ringo was "a
natural comic actor".