After the immense success of film adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings” and the ”Hobbit” trilogies, it is now time for J.R.R. Tolkien to be the focus of a full-length feature film about his personal life. While Chernin Entertainment is currently developing a biopic called “Tolkien,” a smaller independent film company will take a different spin on his life by focusing on his friendship with author C.S. Lewis.
The film is called “Tolkien & Lewis,” and director Simon West has been selected produce the $18 million drama for London-Brisbane based Attractive Films. West is best known for directing ”The Expendables 2” and “Con Air,” and so will be shifting from his typical action genre to direct a movie about two Oxford dons. Also on the team are Jacqueline Cook and Mark Cooper (“Saving Mr. Banks”).
Attractive Films describes the project as a “drama fantasy set in war-torn Britain in 1941, revealing the faith, friendship and rivalry between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis—who went on to become the world’s foremost fantasy authors.” The choice of time frame was deliberate, as 1941 marked a tumultuous period in the life of Tolkien and Lewis.
Tolkien was teaching at Oxford and beginning to see the success of a children’s book he wrote called “The Hobbit.” It eventually became so popular that the publishers asked for a sequel. Tolkien worked hard to produce one, but, a perfectionist, he could not be satisfied with producing a short and simple book. Instead, he began to write “The Lord of the Rings,” loathe to publish something quick and easy—in sharp contrast to the method of C.S. Lewis.
During this same time period, Lewis was also teaching at Oxford and reaping the success of the first installment of his Space Trilogy, “Out of the Silent Planet.” Lewis was busily working the sequel, as well as publishing the set of Christian apologetic letters that would become “The Screwtape Letters.” Tolkien disapproved of how fast C.S. Lewis worked and despised the book. He thought Lewis hadn’t properly worked out his theological ideas. (Ironically, Lewis dedicated his book to J.R.R. Tolkien.)
The movie will seek to highlight this “book war” between the two, and examine their close relationship during the worn-torn years of World War II. It will be interesting to see how the filmmakers portray the Christian faith of these two literary giants, but it will be a topic that they will inevitably have to cover if they wish to do the men any justice. It was their common faith that ultimately united them and became an essential element of their fantasy writings.
The movie is set to be released close to Easter next year, in line with the producers’ stated goal of capturing the attention of faith-based audiences.
Philip Kosloski is a writer and digital artist living in central Wisconsin.