LONDON (Reuters) – J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical world of hobbits, elves and orcs have won over fans around the world in the decades since “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” stories were published.
Now the British novelist himself is the subject of a film that looks at his early years and inspirations for his works.
“X-Men” and “The Favourite” actor Nicholas Hoult plays the title role in “Tolkien”, which follows the author as an orphan, his friendships at school in Birmingham, studies at Oxford University and on the frontline at the Battle of the Somme during World War One.
“We wanted to honor him and tell our story that we thought was fascinating about his formative years that everyone, I feel as a fan…would be intrigued by,” Hoult told Reuters.
“Mirror Mirror” actress Lily Collins plays Edith Bratt, whom Tolkien met when he moved into a boarding house and who would later become his wife and inspire elf Luthien in his fictional Middle-earth world.
“We show her dancing in the forest and…her cheekiness and her love of storytelling and the way that she just would inspire him to continue telling stories,” Collins said.
Tolkien, who was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, published “The Hobbit” in 1937. “The Lord of the Rings” came in three parts between 1954 and 1955.
More than 150 million copies of “The Lord of the Rings” have been sold worldwide. The film adaptations and those for “The Hobbit” trilogy have grossed around $5.8 billion at global box offices.
Tolkien died in 1973, aged 81, two years after Bratt.
His family and estate have distanced themselves from the movie, saying in a statement last week “they did not approve of, authorize or participate in the making of this film. They do not endorse it or its content in any way.”
Studio Fox Searchlight Pictures said it was “proud” of the biopic and “the filmmaking team has the utmost respect and admiration for Mr. Tolkien and his phenomenal contribution to literature”.
Director Dome Karukoski said he hoped Tolkien’s family would see the movie.
“I’ve actually offered…to watch it with them so they would see it and it’s done with the respect, admiration as from a fan,” he said.
“Tolkien” begins its cinema roll-out from May 3.
Reporting by Jayson Mansaray; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall