Peter Jackson was not the first director to attempt a live-action film adaptation of Lord of the Rings. In the 1970’s, director John Boorman (Excalibur) spent a year attempting to bring Middle-earth to the silver screen.
In an interview about Boorman’s latest film, The Tailor of Panama, Salon asks him a few questions about his experience with LOTR:
Q. I wanted to ask you about “The Lord of the Rings.” Were you planning to do a live-action version of the trilogy in the ’70s?
A. Yes, I spent a year on it. United Artists owned the rights. And at the end of the day, when I was ready with it, UA had gone into a very bad period. They didn’t have the money. It was expensive, you know. For a while, I got Disney interested in doing it. But it languished there as well. Then I told Tri-Star I wanted to do it. The rights then were with Saul Zaentz, who produced the animated version. I was authorized to offer him a million dollars for the rights. He wanted more, but Tri-Star wouldn’t pay any more.
Q. Is it true you were so distraught over it that you could never watch the animated version? And how do you feel about the Peter Jackson film due out this year?
A. Yes, that is true. I never watched the version animated by Ralph Bakshi. As for the Jackson epic, I think it was a brilliant idea to make three films. Fundamentally, what had happened for me is that I made “Excalibur.” Everything I learned, the technical problems I had to resolve in planning for “The Lord of the Rings,” I applied to “Excalibur.” That was my recompense. I’m glad “The Lord of the Rings” is being made now, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m sure it’ll be a big success.
Q. Did you ever meet J.R.R. Tolkien?
A. I didn’t meet him; I corresponded with him. He was reluctant to have a film made of it at all. It was only to secure the education of his grandchildren that he agreed to sell the film rights. He wrote to me and asked me how I was going to make it — live action or animation. And I told him I was going to make it with actors. He wrote back, saying, “I’m so relieved, because I had this nightmare of it being an animated film.” And of course, that’s what happened. But he was dead by the time an animated film was made.
Please click on the link below to read the entire interview.