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Lord of the Rings was almost one movie, Jackson almost replaced with Tarantino

Contributed by
May 3, 2018

Not that we needed any more proof that the production of Lord of the Rings was far, far better off under the New Line Cinema's banner than Harvey Weinstein’s old company, Miramax. But it turns out that, at one point, Weinstein threatened to fire Rings director Peter Jackson and replace him with Quentin Tarantino if he didn’t adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy into one two-hour film. According to new book by British film author Ian Nathan, it happened.

Nathan’s new book, Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson & The Making of Middle-Earth, recounts how Jackson & Co. made the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. The book relays accounts from sources that when the project was in the hands of Weinstein, the disgraced former film executive thought Jackson had “wasted” $12 million in developing a two-movie script and told the director that he had to make one two-hour film. If he didn’t, then Jackson would be replaced by Shakespeare in Love director John Madden, or possibly even Tarantino.

“Harvey was like, ‘you’re either doing this or you’re not. You’re out. And I got Quentin ready to direct it’,” Ken Kamins, a producer who worked for Weinstein on the project, told the author.

In the book, Jackson recalls getting a memo from the head of development at Miramax providing “a more radical, streamlined approach” that would allow the story to be told in one film. This meant cutting the Helm’s Deep valley, having no Balrog and possibly no Saruman, either. Yikes. 

“It was literally guaranteed to disappoint every single person that has read that book,” Jackson recounts to Nathan.

Now, let’s be perfectly honest here: even if Weinstein did make good on his threat to fire Jackson, the odds of us ever seeing a Tarantino-helmed (singular) Lord of the Rings film was always very unlikely (to put it mildly). Tarantino has always helmed films he’s conceived from the ground up, so it’s borderline inconceivable that he would take on someone else’s passion project as a director-for-hire. In fact, if Weinstein had his way, chances are the movie would have most likely wound up being some quickly-forgotten fare based on a beloved book series a la The Golden Compass or The Dark Tower.

Fortunately for Rings fans everywhere, Jackson stuck to his guns and refused to adapt the book Weinstein’s way. “We’d rather have our lives and do our films and not deal with all this crap anymore,” Jackson recalls telling Kamins. “Tell Harvey to go ahead and make his film and good luck.”

And ultimately, Kamins convinced Weinstein to allow Jackson and his wife and writing partner Fran Walsh to sell their treatment elsewhere. New Line Cinema picked it up, where they turned Tolkein’s series into a trilogy that grossed nearly $3 billion globally and won a record 17 Oscars.

And of course, now Amazon has a multi-season TV series for Lord of the Rings in the works, so it looks like Weinstein was alone in this “less is more” approach to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. 

(Via The Guardian)