Tolkien estate takes stand against biopic

Tolkien estate takes stand against biopic

J R R Tolkien’s estate has condemned the forthcoming biopic starring Nicholas Hoult as The Hobbit author.

The family and estate said they “do not endorse it [the film] or its content in any way” as studio Fox Searchlight stressed it is proud of the film. 

"Tolkien" is released in the UK on 3rd May and explores “the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration .among a fellow group of writers and artists at school”. It is tipped to reveal how “their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up … until the outbreak of the first world war which threatens to tear their fellowship apart”, all of which, according to studio Fox Searchlight, would inspire Tolkien to “write his famous Middle-earth novels”. It is directed by Dome Karukoski and as also stars Lily Collins as Tolkien’s wife, Edith Bratt.

In a statement on Tuesday (23rd April), the estate said: "The family of J R R Tolkien and the Tolkien Estate are aware of the Fox Searchlight motion picture entitled 'Tolkien' that is due for release in May 2019. The family and the estate wish to make clear that they did not approve of, authorise or participate in the making of this film. They do not endorse it or its content in any way."

A spokesperson for the estate told the Guardian the statement was intended to make its position clear, rather than heralding future legal action.

A spokesperson for Fox Searchlight told The Bookseller: “We are so proud of Dome Karukoski’s film 'Tolkien' which focuses on the early years of J R R Tolkien’s extraordinary life and does not depict subject matter from his novels. While we did not work with the Tolkien Estate on this project, the filmmaking team has the utmost respect and admiration for Mr Tolkien and his phenomenal contribution to literature.” 

The news comes shortly after HarperCollins saw record profits before tax of £26.8m for the year ending 30th June 2018, almost double the 2017 figure, partly due to a The Lord of the Rings TV deal with Amazon. An end of year report showed a £12.9m profit rise from the £14.2m achieved in 2017. After tax profits stood at £24m compared to £9m in 2017. The publisher said “the main driver” was a deal for an Amazon Prime series based on Tolkien’s appendices for his epic trilogy. 

Amazon Studios announced in 2017 that it would produce a multi-season television series based on J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in co-operation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and Warner's New Line Cinema which produced the successful LOTR film franchise. The Amazon Prime Original series will be "a new epic journey in Middle Earth" predating the events that take place in The Fellowship of the Ring, focusing on "previously unexplored" storylines based on the author's original writings.

According to the Radio Times, the Amazon series will be set during the 3,441-year period before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring. In the J R R Tolkien timeline, this is known as the Age of Númenor, or the Second Age.