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Update: Fox Searchlight Pictures has responded to Tolkien's family's statements, saying:
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.
The Lord of the Rings movies were one of the most epic undertakings in cinema history. It's only fitting that the man behind those stories gets some screen time of his own, right? That's the idea behind Tolkien the new biopic of J.R.R. Tolkien that stars Nicholas Hoult as the man who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. However, on the eve of the film's release, the family of Tolkien has said they do not endorse the new movie.
It's certainly not uncommon for family of a biopic subject to be critical of a film. It can frequently happen after a movie has been released and it is seen just how the movie takes license with the real life story, changing events in order to make a better movie, even if it's not perfectly historically accurate.
However, in this case, THR reveals that nobody in the Tolkien family has actually seen the movie in question. They're not criticizing the movie or any particular element of it. That's not the point of the statement. Instead, this appears to be a more preemptive move. The family doesn't want there to be any confusion surrounding how the film was made. Nobody from the Tolkien family was consulted or gave approval to have the movie made in the first place and the family is simply putting this fact on record now.
Tolkien is set for release May 10 and tells the story of the author as a young man, including how events in his life, such as World War I, helped shape his life and lead to the creation of the epic fantasy world he is best known for.
It's certainly understandable that the family of J.R.R. Tolkien would want to be sure to tell the world that they were not involved in the new film in any way. It would be easy for some to make the assumption that they were, many who never hear of this statement will likely do just that.
At the same time, since nobody has seen the movie yet, it's certainly possible that Tolkien tells its story with an even hand that the family will end up appreciating. It's equally possible that the movie will turn out to be a good one, even if it does play fast and loose with the truth.
If the movie does change things drastically in a way that the family doesn't like, we'll likely hear more from the family about that. The family of Don Shirley made their problems with Oscar winning film Green Book known as they felt the movie was inaccurate in some respects and that's far from the first time such a thing has happened.
Nobody likes to see their family portrayed in a negative or incorrect fashion. At the same time, sometimes the stories of real people are simply better stories than anything a fiction writer could possibly come up with.