When playing a real life figure like J.R.R. Tolkien, or his wife Edith Bratt, it takes a lot of research to make sure you’re doing your job well. It’s something that both Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins faced when preparing to star in director Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien, a biopic on the life experiences that lead the titular author to start writing the Middle-Earth franchise.
But when trying into character, both Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins found that there was a fair degree of difficulty and liberation when it came to portraying the couple that would eventually fall in love and get married during the events shown in Tolkien. And a lot of those difficulties came from the fact that the younger incarnations that they were inhabiting aren’t exactly captured in a lot of media that they can base their portrayals off of.
When CinemaBlend spoke with both Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins during the press day for Tolkien, the question of the hardest challenges when honing their characters came up. And in the case of Hoult, the actor had the following feedback to provide when it came to his own research efforts:
The lack of footage for both J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Bratt’s younger selves is something that certain actors might see as stifling for their own creative process. After all, you don’t want to go into a film like Tolkien and totally botch the characterization of the man who wrote The Lord of the Rings, or his beloved wife for that matter.
But as folks who see the movie will find, both actors are up to the task of portraying very humanized versions of Tolkien and Bratt, as they tell the story of their meeting, and eventually their falling in love. Without proper characters, this wouldn’t work in a fictitious narrative, but in the case of Tolkien, you have to believe that the love between Ronald and Edith is so strong, he’d create epic romances and ravishing Elvish beauties in the name of that love.
To that respect, Lily Collins saw the challenge of portraying Edith as a similar learning opportunity to that of her Tolkien co-star, as she provided the following answer to that same question:
While Nicholas Hoult had footage of J.R.R. Tolkien’s interviews from later on in life to go off of, Lily Collins didn’t have anything of the sort when it came to her portrayal of Edith. While it’s certainly an added level of challenge, at the same time, Collins admits that so long as her performance landed in a zone of approximation that matched what was written about Edith Bratt, she was free to move her performance in any direction that suited the sort of aura surrounding Edith’s character.
You can see Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins explain this for themselves, in the video below from our sit-down during the Tolkien junket day:
Very rarely can any actor capture the complete essence of the person they’re playing in a biopic. But in the case of Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, their portrayals of J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife are so well drawn, you can believe their story is not only true, but worthy of a happy ending.
The life story of Tolkien and his ultimate creation of Middle-Earth make for good movie watching, and audiences can see it for themselves as they see Tolkien in theaters, starting with early shows this evening. If you’re interested in further coverage on the film’s release, stay tuned to CinemaBlend as the week progresses.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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