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Upcoming J.R.R. Tolkien biopic disavowed by the author's family, estate, biographer

Screenshot: Tolkien

The human life resists compartmentalization, especially when it comes to the identifiable three-act structure of a Hollywood biopic. The family and estate of Lord Of The Rings author JRR Tolkien are keenly aware of this, having fiercely fought over the years via lawsuits and sternly worded statements to uphold the author’s reputation and buck against the commercialization of his works. It’s not all that surprising, then, that they’ve now publicly disavowed Tolkien, an upcoming biopic that marks the first Fox Searchlight film to be distributed under Disney’s ownership. Their statement, as terse as you might expect, says simply that they did not “approve of, authorize or participate in the making of this film,” and that “they do not endorse it or its content in any way.”

Tolkien biographer John Garth agrees, cheekily plugging his own works on the author to The Guardian while wearily sighing at how busy he’ll be “correcting new misconceptions arising from the movie.” He adds, “Biopics typically take considerable license with the facts, and this one is no exception. Endorsement by the Tolkien family would lend credibility to any divergences and distortions. That would be a disservice to history.”

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The Tolkien estate, however, confirmed with The Hollywood Reporter that they hadn’t yet seen the movie and it sounds as if they likely won’t, what with their hard stance on these sorts of projects. That means they’ll never get to see Nicholas Hoult’s turn as a young, hunky version of Tolkien, who, in the film, will see his “fellowship” among friends inspiring his works, along with his service in the First World War.

Tolkien, wind blown from its sails, hits theaters on May 10.

UPDATE: Fox Searchlight, the studio behind Tolkien, has issued its own statement in response to the Tolkien estate. It reads:

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.” — Fox Searchlight Pictures

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.