If you were looking at the upcoming slate of Hobbit films and thinking “that’s a sizeable amount of Tolkien material, but I am not satisfied with this ride ever ending,” the universe is throwing you just a little bone to tide you over until another facet of the LOTR series is probably announced. Fox Searchlight and Cherin Entertainment are currently working on a J.R.R. Tolkien biopic that will span the author’s life and target the moments that led him to write “The Hobbit” in 1937 and begin “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in 1954.
The tentatively titled Tolkien, written by David Gleeson (Cowboys and Angels) focuses on the parts of his life that proved formative to creating Middle Earth, like his days at Pembroke College and as a soldier during World War I; the author, who was born in South Africa in 1892 and raised in England, was deeply affected by his experiences in the Great War and channeled much of what happened to him and his friends into his writing. Tolkien’s adventuresome life also included serving as a code breaker during World War II and being a member of a very Skull and Bones-sounding writing society with C.S. Lewis — though it’s not clear at this point how much the biopic will dive into these aspects of his life.
Secret society or not, viewers taste for the fantastical will be satiated as the biopic is being compared to the 2004 J.M. Barrie biopic Finding Neverland. The Marc Forster drama took normal events from the daydreaming “Peter Pan” author’s life and embedded the characters and fantasties from his works into the real world. For a Tolkien biopic in the same vein, those days at Pembroke and in the WWI battlefield could have the author surrounded by elves, hobbits, wizards and halflings as he dreams up his creations while finding his inspiration.
It doesn’t seem likely that those characters would necessarily be Bilbo Baggins or Gandalf specifically, as Warner Bros. owns the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. It’s also unclear at this point how much cooperation the film will get from the Tolkien estate, which is notoriously private and guarded; however, they’ve put the stops on several Tolkien-inspired projects in previous years (Mirkwood), so the fact that this one is somehow going through must mean they’re getting something very right with the man’s story.
The Tolkien news comes at a great time, when the buzz from the Walt Disney quazi-biopic Saving Mr. Banks is starting to get strong and renew America’s faith in Tom Hanks and dreams/wishes your heart makes, etc. People have a genuine interest in seeing the story of the man behind the story — and who better to showcase next than the author who has crafted an entire separate world for generations of obsessed readers?
I personally can’t wait for the scene where he gets dragged to Disneyland and convinced to let a strange man in the future make his books into movies.