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The Tolkien Estate Really Wants You to Know It Has Nothing to Do With the Tolkien Biopic [Updated]

Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien in, err, Tolkien.
Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien in, err, Tolkien.
Image: Fox Searchlight

And the the late author’s estate doesn’t much care for the film’s existence, either.

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The Tolkien Estate’s relationship with works based on the beloved author’s life and novels has always been a fiercely defensive one—and that’s not changing with the impending release of Tolkien, Dome Karukoski’s new biopic for Fox Searchlight.

Starring Nicholas Hoult as the titular author as he navigates love, academia, and World War I (with a little clunky help from some Lord of the Rings-ian visions on the battlefield), the new film claims to tell the story of how J.R.R. Tolkien’s experiences forged the ideas behind his iconic fantasy series. But the Tolkien Estate is having none of it, according a terse statement to the press today:

The family of JRR Tolkien and the Tolkien Estate are aware of the Fox Searchlight motion picture entitled Tolkien that is due for release in May 2019.

The family and the Estate wish to make clear that they did not approve of, authorise or participate in the making of this film.

They do not endorse it or its content in any way.

Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the Tolkien Estate further added that the statement wasn’t a herald of potential legal action against Fox Searchlight for the movie—it wouldn’t be the first time the Estate has embroiled itself in legal fights over film adaptations, though, if it was—but simply an attempt to make its position on Tolkien clear. Point taken, Tolkien Estate!

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If you thought the resignation of Christopher Tolkien as director of the Estate was going to really change its approach to dealing with works like this, well...it’s not, really. Please be excited for the inevitable similar statement whenever Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel is set to release, I guess.

Update 4/24 8.30 AM: After publication, Fox Searchlight sent the following response to the Tolkien Estate’s statement:

We are so proud of Dome Karukoski’s film Tolkien, which focuses on the early years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s extraordinary life and does not depict subject matter from his novels. While we did not work with the Tolkien Estate on this project, the filmmaking team has the utmost respect and admiration for Mr. Tolkien and his phenomenal contribution to literature.


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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

I’ve never really been behind the Tolkien Estate’s criticism towards film adaptations. To me, as long as nothing actually prevents people from experiencing the original work, the films and books are different worlds.

But, Tolkien is different. This isn’t fiction. This is a blatantly false interpretation of an actual person — and I fully support the estate’s strongly worded statement.

It’s a shame that we can’t get an honest look at the life of one of our greatest literary figures. Read any interview with him and it’s clear that he’s not the same man depicted in this movie.