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.
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