Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings continues to stand as a testament to what you can pull off with sufficient faith in the right filmmaker. After all, even if you don’t agree with every single decision that Jackson and his team made—looking at you, Tom Bombadil fanatics—it’s hard to deny that, backed by New Line, Jackson did something really special out in the wilds of New Zealand, amassing a huge crew of people over a very long time in order to give J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels about as faithful a film treatment as you could ever hope to expect.
Which makes it all the more staggering to learn that Harvey Weinstein almost fucked up the entire franchise by handing it to Quentin Tarantino to make as a single, two-hour film, instead. This is per a Guardian piece that ran this week, covering excerpts from a new book about Jackson’s efforts to get the movies made, and which detail the pressures Weinstein attempted to leverage to give the films—or, rather, film, singular— “a more radical, streamlined approach.” Weinstein was apparently extremely pissed at Jackson’s determination to write what was then a two-movie script for the franchise, with one of his producers at the time telling author Ian Nathan, “Harvey was like, ‘You’re either doing this or you’re not. You’re out. And I got Quentin ready to direct it.’” (Shakespeare In Love director John Madden was also offered up as a possible choice.)
Presented with a treatment that would have reportedly cut Helm’s Deep, excised the Balrog, and turned Eowyn into Boromir’s sister in an effort to cram the entire trilogy into a single movie, Jackson balked, walking away from the project with writing partner Fran Walsh. Weinstein was eventually convinced to let go of the rights to Jackson and Walsh’s treatment, though, freeing New Line to snap it up, and the rest is cinematic history. (And an utterly baffling disaster averted, even if part of us kind of wants to see what a trainwreck it could have been.)
Admittedly, all these threats of a Tarantino-Tolkien mash-up could have just been a lot of bullying bluster, a well-known trait of Weinstein’s that has now become, like, the 20th worst thing that we know about him. (Certainly, it’s hard to imagine Tarantino even being interested in the project, although his supposed willingness to toss himself at Star Trek recently might suggest otherwise.) This isn’t the only time Jackson has discussed Weinstein’s influence on the trilogy, either; at the height of the sexual harassment and assault allegations against the producer, Jackson revealed that he’d been dissuaded from casting actresses like Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd—both of whom are among Weinstein’s many accusers—because Weinstein had labeled them as “difficult.”