It’s difficult to imagine what modern fantast would look like without The Lord of the Rings. Author J.R.R. Tolkien crafted a world so rich in detail and so powerful that its reverberations can be felt 80 years after readers first got sucked into the realm of Middle-eath, and all the fantastic creatures that populated its landscape, with The Hobbit. Even without the push from director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, the impact of Tolkien’s creation would be felt and the importance of the work would be discussed from today well into the future.
For all the impact Tolkien’s stories had, it’s easy to forget about the man who wrote them. While scholars and superfans have long drawn parallels between his work and his life, many readers have little knowledge about the man behind the most influential fantasy series of all time. Knowing the man, however, as well as the politics of Britain at the time, brings with a deeper appreciation for the larger themes found within The Lord of the Rings and its various companion works. His was a life filled with tragedy and love, worthy of cinematic exploration. Now, it seems Tolkien and his life will get the exploration he deserves.
Deadline is reporting that James Strong (Downton Abbey, Broadchurch) has been tapped to direct Middle Earth from screenwriter Angus Fletcher, who pored over years of archival research and conducted personal interviews in order to craft his script. Middle Earth is to be produced by Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, the team behind Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with Rachel Horovitz (Maggie’s Plan, Moneyball).
The film is to follow Tolkien’s early life and courtship of Edith Bratt, his future wife, at Oxford where the two lived. Their happiness is disrupted by the outbreak of World War I, in which the author fought. Tolkien’s experience in the war would later influence the development of the good vs. evil themes he explored in his writings, which many scholars read as a fantasy allegory about both World Wars.
Tolkien’s life feels almost tailor made for cinema, and well-deserving of the biopic treatment. He was an imminent and respected scholar who put his life—and love—on hold to fight for his country and way of life. That alone has been the subject of countless films and narratives over the years, but the potential for parallels between his work makes the subject even more intriguing.
While those no word yet on who might play the author or his wife, there’s been no shortage of talented British actors and actresses who might easily step into the roles. It’s an important role, to be sure, especially for Britain. Tolkien’s works are largely attempts to create a British specific mythos, and are particularly important to the culture and arts there. Strong, then, feels like a natural choice for director, as he’s built his career crafting British-centric stories that explore sides to the nation we might otherwise not see.
Middle Earth is currently in the early stages of development, but the news is good for Tolkien fans who long to see the godfather of modern fantasy get his cinematic due. With the right cast, Middle Earth has the potential to be a stunning biopic that finally introduces mass audiences to the man who changed fantasy forever.
We'll bring you more information on Middle Earth as it becomes available.