J. R. R. Tolkien's estate has disowned the new biopic movie, Tolkien - but why? Despite the film's best intentions to bring the Lord of the Rings creator's life to the big screen, it was never given the Tolkien estate's official blessing.
Directed by Dome Karukoski, Tolkien details the formative years of J. R. R. Tolkien, showcasing the relationships and hardships that inspired his literary classics, which, of course, began "in a hole in the ground." With Nicholas Hoult as the titular writer and philologist (among other things), Tolkien sheds light on the various struggles that ultimately shaped his stories; poverty, war, love, and friendships that bordered on brotherhood. Also starring Lily Collins, Anthony Boyle, and Colm Meaney, the film makes great strides to honor Tolkien's legacy, though it hasn't convinced the Tolkien estate to budge on officially supporting it.
Screen Rant interviewed Tolkien's cast and director to learn why exactly the Tolkien estate refuses to support the new film. The Tolkien estate has never been especially warm to the film adaptations of Tolkien's work, so it's no wonder they're just as uninvolved with his biopic. However, Karukoski explained that their announcement about disowning the film "wasn't hostile," giving him hope that they might consider watching it at some point in time. He said that he "offered them a chance to watch the movie," and that he "would love to meet them, to show them the film, to hear their thoughts and discuss why certain artistic liberties have been taken." Still, Karukoski admits there was a benefit to their distance during filming, saying, "9 out of 10 films are made without the estate for a reason, because even if it’s the most lovable estate in the world, you start servicing them and not [making the film] for you as an artist."
Hoult is also hopeful about the Tolkien estate coming around, pointing out that Tolkien portrays "a really respectful version of [Tolkien's] younger life and what inspired him." He even added that the Tolkien family doesn't entirely object to the film, making note of the fact that Tolkien's great-grandson appeared in a background role as a World War I soldier. Meanwhile, Collins explained that she has "the utmost respect for [the Tolkien estate] and all of Tolkien’s work," but "can’t really speak to that as someone who was just involved in the film."
The history of the Tolkien estate versus Tolkien adaptations has been messy for years, especially with a lawsuit the Tolkien estate filed against Warner Bros. over digital merchandising for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. However, with that lawsuit settled and the Tolkien estate appearing to be loosening its grip on future adaptations of the author's work now that Christopher Tolkien is no longer the Tolkien estate director (proven by the upcoming Lord of the Rings series from Amazon, at the very least), maybe official seals of approval are in the Tolkien estate's future after all. But, for now, an approval wasn't in the cards for the Tolkien movie.