21 January 2018

One Ringo to rule them all

Ringo went home [from Rishikesh in 1968] after two weeks; his stomach, weakened by childhood surgery, couldn't deal with even that mildly-spiced vegetarian food, and Maureen hated the flies. Into their cabin moved two members of the Apple team, Neil Aspinall and Denis O'Dell, who'd arrived from London. O'Dell was there to discuss John's idea for a documentary about the Maharishi and the hard-headed Aspinall to make sure it never got off the ground.

O'Dell brought with him what he considered to be the best idea for the Beatles' next feature film since the Joe Orton script. This was J.R.R. Tolkein's fantastical trilogy The Lord of the Rings, already an enormous hit on American college campuses but still relatively unknown in Britain. Consequently, neither Paul or John had ever encountered Tolkein's world of hobbits, elves and wizards which - so their film 'guru' said - offered plum screen-acting roles for them.

Knowing no Beatle could be expected to plough through a 1000-plus-page trilogy, O'Dell gave the three remaining meditators a volume each, subconsciously maintaining their usual order of precedence: John was to read the first in the sequence, The Fellowship of the Ring; Paul was to read the second, The Two Towers; and George the last, The Return of the King [...]

Nothing came of the film idea Denis O'Dell had brought out to India so excitedly... At the Maharishi's ashram, it had been provisionally agreed that Paul would play the hobbit Frodo Baggins, John the slithery humanoid Gollum, George the wizard Gandalf and Ringo Frodo's sidekick, Sam. 'John told me he could write a double album to go with it,' O'Dell remembers.

- Philip Norman, Paul McCartney: The Biography, London, 2016, pp.306-7 & 324

[This snippet falls into the category of something I probably used to know, but had forgotten. Apparently O'Dell's discussions with United Artists included the idea of David Lean to direct the film]

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