What links The Lord of the Rings to Lenny Henry and the Beatles?

As Middle-earth buffs get ready for the new Rings of Power extravaganza, we follow Tolkien down the rabbit hole and find Orson Welles, Michael Gambon and the Fab Four

Here We Go(T) Again

Cynthia Addai-Robinson in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power …
Cynthia Addai-Robinson stars in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power … Photograph: Amazon Prime Studios

You might think it is time for something different after all the fantasy worlds in pop culture in recent decades, stretching from the Lord of the Rings trilogy of the early 2000s to Game of Thrones. Another way of seeing it: let’s just do it all over again. Monday brought the premiere of HBO’s lavish Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon (Sky Atlantic). Next week comes The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The massive-budget series based on JRR Tolkien’s universe is financed by one of the world’s own dork Dark Lords, Jeff Bezos, through Amazon.

Bard times

Michael Gambon
… as does Lenny Henry, who once played Othello, in a 1965 film of which was Michael Gambon … Photograph: Getty Images

Morfydd Clark and Peter Mullan are among the ensemble for The Rings of Power, which also includes Lenny Henry. In 2009, the comedian, presenter, actor and soon-to-be playwright led a production of Othello. In a 1965 film, a less culturally sensitive time, Laurence Olivier played the titular role in blackface. Michael Gambon had a small part, too, making his screen debut.

Welles I never!

Orson Welles
… who made his first stage appearance at the Gate theatre in Dublin, as did Orson Welles and Geraldine Fitzgerald … Photograph: Getty Images

Gambon’s first steps on stage came in 1962 in an Othello at the Gate theatre in Dublin. In 1931, Orson Welles, aged 16, made his professional acting debut at the same theatre (he’d one day make his own Othello, too). The following year, Irish actor Geraldine Fitzgerald also debuted there, crossing paths with him. She later acted in a Welles production on Broadway – though married to others, the pair were said to be close.

The Hogg-father

Michael Lindsay-Hogg
… whose son, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, was in Get Back … Photograph: Shutterstock

Fitzgerald had a son, Michael Lindsay-Hogg. It has long been speculated that Welles was his real father – Lindsay-Hogg wrote about it in his 2011 memoir. A director, too, he is most recognisable from last year’s Get Back documentary, as the hapless fop irritating the Beatles while trying to make a film of their Let It Be sessions.

Rings around the world

Peter Jackson
… directed by Peter Jackson, who was also the director of the Hobbit trilogy and Lord of the Rings series. Photograph: WireImage

The long and winding road naturally takes us from Get Back’s exacting director Peter Jackson, through his Hobbit trilogy and back again to his epic Lord of the Rings series, which began in 2001. The new take has been developed by newcomers Patrick McKay and John D Payne. No pressure, fellas: there’s just the spectre of the obsessive Tolkien fanbase, three enormous blockbusters, and possibly the most expensive TV show in history hanging over you.

Pairing notes

Watch The Rings of Power star Morfydd Clark was excellent in psychological horror Saint Maud. On a lighter note, she’s also in Whit Stillman’s sparkling Jane Austen riff Love & Friendship.

Eat Want to recreate “all six mealtimes” of the hobbits? Robert Tuesley Anderson’s Recipes from the World of Tolkien (“unofficial”) unlocks the mysteries, from Bilbo’s pork pie to Grey Havens’ garlicky mussels.


Larry Ryan

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