Just when you thought the film industry couldn’t possibly eek anything more out of J.R.R. Tolkien or his epic tales, Finnish director Dome Karukoski will breathe new life into the famed, fantastical scribe by way of a big-screen biopic detailing Tolkien’s formative years as an orphaned youth.
Penned by screenwriters David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, the script will focus on Tolkien as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of ragamuffin schoolmates just before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. To put that year into perspective, the author served in the British armed forces from 1916-1920, a call of duty thought to inspire much of the blood, gore and warfare in his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He published The Hobbit in 1937 and then The Lord of the Rings in 1954 and 1955. The Lord of the Rings would go on to sell more than 150 million copies worldwide, etching Tolkien’s place in the Western cannon of literature as one of the best-selling novelists of all time.
So, yes, he’s worthy to take center stage in a movie of his own for once. Chernin Entertainment is producing the unnamed film for Fox Searchlight and though it’s reported casting is underway, rumors are already swirling like a great cloud streaming slowly over Mordor that Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road) is a lock to play the late wizard of words.
Notably, this perhaps-Hoult-starring, early-years biopic isn’t all Hollywood has planned for the late Tolkien. In November 2016, New Line Cinema announced a new film in the works called Middle Earth, directed by Downton Abbey and Broadchurch’s James Strong. Middle Earth will purportedly document Tolkien’s courtship with Edith Bratt, muse for the two ethereal beauties Lúthien Tinúviel and Arwen Evenstar in The Lord of the Rings, and the woman he would marry in 1916. The movie will also detail Tolkien’s WWI experiences and how real-life tragedies on the battlefield shaped the densely imaginative world he would soon create.