J.R.R. Tolkien Biopic is Being Developed by Fox Searchlight

Published 1 year ago by

tolkien movie biopic J.R.R. Tolkien Biopic is Being Developed by Fox Searchlight

Sometimes the storyteller behind a famous novel and/or film has a life just as fascinating as the characters he/she has brought to life – and J.R.R. Tolkien is almost certainly one of those cases. The creator of Middle-earth was a soldier in WWI, a codebreaker in WWII, a university professor for more than thirty years and a classic literary specialist who was (at one point) close friends with Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis – among other things, of course.

Fox Searchlight has begun to develop a biopic under the working title of Tolkien, with Peter Chernin (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) producing the film through his Chernin Entertainment banner. The Tolkien estate has interfered with previous attempts to immortalize the author’s life on the big screen, as the LA Times reports was the case with the abandoned cinematic Tolkien memoir, Mirkwood. Whether or not the estate cooperates with Fox on this new project, that remains to be seen.

Mirkwood blended legitimate history – covering events from Tolkien’s experience serving as a cryptographer for England in WWII – with more fantastical elements, in order to get at deeper truths about the connection between the author’s real life and the eponymous Middle-earth forest (one of the realms featured in next month’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug). It sounds like an intriguing approach, but apparently the Tolkien estate doesn’t agree.

By comparison, Fox’s Tolkien biopic is described as more of a conventional true-story narrative, as it will examine the author’s whole life; in particular, “his formative years at Pembroke College and as a soldier in World War I, and how it influenced him and his work.” Truth be told, that angle doesn’t sound nearly as imaginative as the design of the Mirkwood script. On the more positive side, the attached screenwriter is David Gleeson: an award-winning Irish filmmaker (see the 2003 indie film Cowboys & Angels), who is also a Tolkien scholar… of sorts, anyway.

hobbit desolation smaug trailer1 J.R.R. Tolkien Biopic is Being Developed by Fox Searchlight

Bilbo Baggins returns in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

There’s been a recent wave of projects made about the complicated artists who were behind famous novels, movies and/or television shows, like the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks - which examines the life of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers through her tempestuous working relationship with Walt Disney on the film adaptation – or the made-for-TV feature Fleming, starring Dominic Cooper as James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Sometimes, these projects imitate the style/form of the art that their subjects created (see: Hitchcock), but it doesn’t sound as though Tolkien will necessarily travel in that direction. No doubt, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit author’s life is worthy of a cinematic biopic, but one just hopes that screenwriter Gleeson won’t connect the dots too closely between the author’s life and times and the evocative literature that they inspired (looking at you, Becoming Jane).


Screen Rant will keep you posted on development on Tolkien as more information is made available.

Source: LA Times

Follow Sandy Schaefer on Twitter @feynmanguy
TAGS: Tolkien
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  1. Hopefully it’ll be really long. Like at least three or four times longer than his actual life. This could be stretched out into a series that last forever.

    • I hope that they include the episode where his car broke down in London and he used some rabbits to tow him back to Oxford.

    • If you don’t like long movies, don’t see them.

      • Just wanted to thank the author for editing my comment After I wrote it, I felt a bit juvenile for how I addressed it. Thanks for saving me the embarrassment.

  2. Let me guess, Peter Jackson is going to direct the story and turn it into a trilogy.

    • Like that joke isn’t getting old.

      • But it’s a joke about overextending/milking…so it kinda bears being overextended/milked.

    • I would recommend Jackson for director, and of course a biopic won’t be a trilogy. You people criticizing The Hobbit for its length are more repetitive and tiresome than you believe the movies to be…

  3. is this serious?

    a movie about the author of a recent franchise?

    Hollywood is such an unique industry, lol

    • Recent? The Hobbit was published in 1937.

    • Are you a mountain troll or a cave troll?

      • “They have a cave troll.” -Boromir

  4. holy darn, he looks like james cromwell

  5. He had an intriguing life. I hope they do his life justice, from his courtship to World War 1 to his academic life. That’d be awesome.

  6. I heard Asthon Kutcher is the top candidate for this one too..

  7. I’m feeling James McAvoy for the role of a young Tolkien.

  8. As one biographer said of Tolkien, once Tolkien was elected to Oxford, “And after this, you might say, nothing else really happened.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Tolkien, both within and without Middle-earth, but his life isn’t all that interesting after World War I (no scandals, only a little drama with his publishing company), so it makes sense that this biopic will stick to his “formative years.”

    Having said that, I’m excited at this prospect, although Mirkwood sounds much more imaginative.

  9. Tolkien’s estate sound like d-bags!

  10. I’ve only read about Tolkein’s life in summary. Can anyone recommend a good documentary or biography? I find the little detail I know of his life to be fascinating.

    • “J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth” by Daniel Grotta is good.

  11. This will be all over the local news again if it gets the go-ahead because they love showing the same areas of Birmingham and the surrounding towns and countryside to show what inspired Tolkien.

    Not that it’s a bad thing at all, it’d be great for tourism to those areas (Sarehole Mill for example).