Arts / Entertainment

Tolkien biopic to be led by Downton Abbey director

Tolkien’s Catholic faith played a central role in forming his mythology; will this pic ever make it to theaters?

After the overwhelming success of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies, Hollywood is looking to focus on the author behind the successful franchise and produce a full-length feature film about the personal life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Director James Strong recently signed on to help make the movie, currently titled Middle-earth, a reality.

Strong is most well known for directing episodes of Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, and Broadchurch. Hollywood Reporter states the “script by Angus Fletcher, based on six years of interviews and archival research — will chart the tumultuous events that inspired him to pen The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy: when war broke out in 1914, disrupting his Oxford life with his wife Edith Bratt, Tolkien embarked on four years of battle, hardship, and new friendships, which served to shape his imagination and start him on the path to Middle-earth.”

The biopic will also include Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne as producers. According to Cinemablend, “Bob Shaye and Michel Lynne were the ones who decided to give Peter Jackson the green light to work on The Lord of the Rings films when they were at New Line Cinema. They will also be producing Middle-earth alongside Rachael Horovitz.”

The film project will be officially launched next year by its producers and worldwide sales handler Protagonist Pictures but has yet to be given any kind of release date.

This is not the first time a studio attempted a biopic on J.R.R. Tolkien. Two years ago director Simon West was selected to produce a film called Tolkien and Lewis for London-Brisbane based Attractive Films. It was reported that the film would be released around Easter time in 2015. The film is still listed as “in development” on IMDB.

At the same time Tolkien and Lewis was gaining attention, producer Peter Chernin was working a separate film entitled Tolkien through the studio Fox Searchlight. After the initial reports back in 2014, no new news was ever reported and the project is also presumably dead.

It will be interesting to see if this film is ever brought to theaters, as Tolkien’s Catholic faith played a central role in forming his mythology. The Catholic Church was ever present in his life, and during this time period Tolkien was highly influenced by his guardian, Father Francis Xavier Morgan, who at first forbade him starting a relationship with Edith Bratt. Tolkien eventually married Edith, but only after she converted to the Catholic faith.

Middle-earth will be pitched to buyers at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2017 and the producers hope to gain enough attention so that the author behind one of the most popular trilogies ever created will finally receive a feature film on his inspiring life.

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Philip Kosloski

Philip Kosloski is a husband and father of five, and staff writer at Aleteia. He also writes for The Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer), and blogs at the National Catholic Register.