Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was originally going to kill one of the hobbits
When Peter Jackson brought Lord of the Rings to the big screen two decades ago, he remained pretty faithful to J.R.R. Tolkien's source material. But when you're making a big Hollywood fantasy epic, studio executives are always going to want to suggest changes — and one of those proposed changes almost cost a hobbit his life.
In an interview with IGN, Dominic Monaghan (who played the hobbit Merry Brandybuck) shared some behind-the-scenes stories from filming, including the reveal that producers attempted to pressure Jackson to kill one of the hobbits — despite the fact that in the book, all four of the Fellowship's smallest members survive.
"It's a good job that didn't happen, because it would have been me. It definitely would have," Monaghan joked to IGN. "There's no way they are killing Frodo and Sam, and the only ones that would be left would be Merry and Pippin. They wouldn't kill Pippin because Pippin has a really strong story with Gandalf. It would have definitely been me."
In the film, Merry and his ever-present companion Peregrin "Pippin" Took (Billy Boyd) find themselves in multiple high-stakes situations that bring them close to death. Pippin fights alongside Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in the service of Denethor (John Noble) at the Battle of Minas Tirith while Merry rides with the Rohirrim alongside a disguised Eowyn (Mirando Otto) at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. In the minds of the studio executives, they probably thought that killing a cute, innocent halfling would up the emotional stakes of the story and add some shock value. But let's be real: at its core, Lord of the Rings is a story about how even the smallest person can change the world. Killing a hobbit just wouldn't have felt right on any level.
That's not to say that no changes were made when it came to adapting Tolkien's original novels to three-hour-plus epics. Small changes were made to certain character's stories, other beloved characters were left out entirely, and Merry and Pippin even almost had a nude scene in The Two Towers. But killing a hobbit is a pretty big swerve. It's safe to say other directors may have succumbed to the studio's pressure but Jackson's passion for Tolkien's work made him resilient when it came to agreeing to such a drastic change, proving he was the right director to take on the story.
"I think Pete quite rightly was like, 'This is a luminary piece of written work, and we need to stick close to the text.' So, he stuck by his guns," Monaghan said. "Yeah, I'm thankful that didn't happen."
We'll raise a pint to that.