The two people who greenlit Peter Jackson’s ambitious, risky Lord of the Rings trilogy are returning to the roots of Middle Earth. Former New Line executives Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne are producing a biopic of Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, and they’ve just hired a director.

Deadline reports Downton Abbey director James Strong has signed to direct the film, which is called Middle Earth. It’s based on a script by Angus Fletcher, who did six years of research and personal interviews on the visionary author. Middle Earth follows Tolkien’s early life, marriage, and time at war, which heavily influenced his creation of The Hobbit and its sequels, The Lord of the Rings.

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The question I have about this news is: will audiences turn out for a Lord of the Rings movie without any of the fantasy? Tolkien’s life is, undoubtedly, eventful and emotional. But what will really excite audiences is the insight a biopic might offer into how he wrote his iconic works—and how the film actually deals with, or shows, Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth will be a huge selling point for more mainstream audiences. If that’s merely the destination as opposed to the journey, it’s going to be a hard sell.

[Deadline]