Next Friday marks the long awaited film release of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s much loved adventure about Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, and the rest of the gang from Middle Earth. Originally published in 1937, The Hobbit has taken 75 years to make it from Tolkien’s hastily scribbled notebook full of naked drawings of Elf women to the big screen.
With the world gripped by “Hobbit fever” (in this context, “Hobbit fever” is a figurative term referring to people who are excited to see The Hobbit. It is not to be confused with the very real, potentially fatal disease “Hobbit-totis,” which involves people developing curly hair, pointy ears and hairy feet. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately), I decided that it might be fun to look back at all the aborted attempts to bring everyone’s favorite Hobbit to theaters.
1943: Immediately after his success with The Wizard of Oz, director Victor Fleming attempts the first ever adaptation of The Hobbit for Warner Bros. Former child actor Micky Rooney signs on to the play the lead role, with Humphrey Bogart as Gandalf, James Cagney as Thorin Oakenshield and Edward G. Robinson as The Goblin King. Although early dailies of the film seem promising (if unusually gritty), the actors begin to improvise much of the dialogue, and the film ends up as Key Largo.
1954: In the mid-50s, Billy Wilder attempts to bring Bilbo & Co. to the big screen. He quickly hires Tony Curtis as Bilbo and Marilyn Monroe in a role to be determined later.
The film is canceled after an altercation in which Professor Tolkien himself appears on the set, demanding to rewrite the script from page one. After Tolkien demands that producers cast actual Elves to appear in the film, he is banned from the set. In retaliation, Tolkien exclaims, “You fools! You are tampering with a dark power beyond your control! Forged in the fires of Mount Doom, in the First Age of Eriador, before the fall of the Fibbity-Jibbity realm and the faery-folk of Frankie Avalon’s tomb!”
Letting out a laugh, he yells, “See if you can catch me now!” Fumbling with his wedding ring, he manages to slide it onto his ring finger and (believing himself to be invisible), he begins to remove his clothing and dance an Elvish jig.
1966: The Beatles express interest in a Stanley Kubrick directed Lord of the Rings adaptation, starring themselves in the principal roles. Although Tolkien is keen to the idea, it is canceled after learning that the Rolling Stones are planning an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, tentatively titled The Lyin’, the Bitch and the Wardrobe. (Sidenote: It was Professor Tolkien who first exposed the Beatles to pipeweed).
Kubrick continued to work on the screenplay for several years, at one point planning on a version with Peter Sellers as all thirteen Dwarves and Bilbo played by the HAL 9000.
1988: Star Wars Sith Lord George Lucas tries to buy the rights to The Hobbit. When the Tolkien estate refuses to sell them, Lucas pens a letter reading (in full): “Fuck you. I’ll make my own Hobbit.” Two weeks later, Willow is released. George Lucas is never heard from again.
1991: Hot off the heels of Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino is hired to write a new script for The Hobbit. After half a week, he turns in a 417 page script, with the hopes of having John Travolta star as Bilbo and Samuel L. Jackson as Gandalf. Producers cancel the project after reading only the first scene (the first 143 pages of the script) in which Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves have a lengthy conversation about the Elvish and Dwarvish words for the McDLT.
1995: Peter Jackson approaches New Line Cinema about the possibility of finally adapting Tolkien’s book. They like Jackson, but don’t know if he is up for the task. As a test, they allow him to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy first. Happy with the results, they hire him for The Hobbit.
2009: Inspired by the Dragon Smaug, the films’ producers realize they could make far more money if they split the book into three separate movies.
2012: The first installment of The Hobbit is released and international sex symbol/piano genius Anthony Scibelli writes an article about it for UnSceneComedy.com. The article is wildly successful: it is shared on Facebook over 300 times and wins a Pulitzer Prize in the category of “Miscellaneous.”