The Beatles in The Lord of the Rings

Many years ago, when I was studying Artificial Intelligence at Birmingham University, I read about a project that the Beatles had proposed that was never completed. They wanted to make a film version of The Lord of the Rings, with Paul as Frodo, Ringo as Samwise, George as Gandalf and John as Gollum. What is more, they wanted Stanley Kubrick (John was a huge fan of 2001) to direct the movie.

Stanley Kubrick wasn’t interested, the Beatles split up, and the project never got off the ground.

At the time, I was wondering a lot about the question “Could a machine ever think?” Different philosophers put forward different answers to that question. Some dismissed the question as being as important as asking “Can submarines swim?” Others, notably proponents of the Turing Test, sought to answer the question by looking at the observable performance of the system. A milestone that I thought about was an AI system that could produce the film described above just from prompting. It seemed like science fiction fantasy at the time.

20 years later, and AI has come a very long way. In just a few minutes this morning, I was able to create some images using Hugging Face’s Stable Diffusion system purely from written prompts from my phone:

John Lennon as Gollum
John Lennon as Gollum
Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins
Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins
Ringo Starr as Samwise Gamgee
Ringo Starr as Samwise Gamgee
George Harrison as Gandalf
George Harrison as Gandalf

It’s not an epic in the style of Stanley Kubrick. Nor has it generated a Beatles-esque soundtrack. However, the power of these AI systems is astounding.

One thought on “The Beatles in The Lord of the Rings

  1. Robert Impey March 27, 2023 / 4:08 pm

    Bing couldn’t come up with images for John Lennon as Gollum, but it could write a poem:

    He was a Beatle once, a star of rock and roll
    He sang of love and peace, he had a gentle soul
    But then he found the Ring, the precious in his hand
    He left his wife and friends, he fled to Mordor’s land

    He became a creature, a wretched and a thin
    He hid in caves and tunnels, he shunned the light and sun
    He spoke to himself only, he called the Ring his own
    He lost his name and memory, he was Gollum now alone

    But in his twisted mind, he still recalled a tune
    A song of yesterday, when all his life was good
    He hummed it to the Ring, he whispered words of love
    He hoped to find a way, to be himself again


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