The Secret Behind The Chemistry Of Tolkien’s On-Screen Friends

Tolkien J.R.R. Tolkien and his friends after a Rugby match

The power of friendship is something that author J.R.R. Tolkien loved to explore in his writings, on par with his exploration of the power of love. One could say that the two were one in the same for him, as his heroes loved their romantic partners and their fellowship equally, as evidenced in various dissections of his worldwide phenomenon, The Lord of the Rings.

Those same powers are shown on grand display in Tolkien, this weekend’s new release that tells the story of how true love and fellowship influenced the writings that would change the world of fiction straight through to this very day. And it’s without question that the part Tolkien’s friends played in his life is a great plot point in director Dome Karukoski’s film, which shows the initial meeting and lifelong friendships built between the author and a trio of friends: Geoffrey Smith, Robert Gilson and Christopher Wiseman.

Playing the roles of J.R.R. Tolkien’s own fellowship are, respectively, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson and Tom Glynn-Carney. Judging by their time together in the film, you’d be forgiven for thinking they all knew each other beforehand, however that’s not quite the case.

As CinemaBlend sat down with the three gentlemen during the press day for Tolkien, the subject of friendship was an easy one to breach. Especially when wondering what the secret was to their special brand of chemistry. In their own words, the truth behind their previous connections, or lack thereof, may surprise you:

Tom Glynn-Carney: We knew of each other before. We’d sort of met on a few occasions through mutual friends, but we’d never worked with each other, or spent any sort of concentrated time with each other.Patrick Gibson: We’d done our best not to.Glynn-Carney: No, yeah, in fact, actively avoided each other.Gibson: This was our last straw.

So while these three gentlemen knew of each other, as Tom Glynn-Carney noted in their interview, they really didn’t get to know each other until they started production on Tolkien. What’s also apparent is the playful chemistry that took hold in a short time, and still holds to this day, as co-star Patrick Gibson started a chain of good-hearted kidding that suggested these gentlemen never really wanted to meet. But of course they did, and the end result is an absolutely believable friendship that stretches through almost the entirety of Tolkien’s biopic story.

Of course, it didn’t stop with this trio of fun-loving mates, as Tolkien was definitely a group effort, and everyone fell into a sort of likeable family. Tom Glynn-Carney explained further, with some help from co-star Anthony Boyle, in the following remarks:

Glynn-Carney: But then being thrown into this sort of melting pot of this cast was a great thing, and it all happened very organically. There was no conscious effort made to up the camaraderie or any of that. It just all happened organically.Anthony Boyle: It just fell into place, really. You know, I think we all just really enjoyed each other’s companies. And we just had a lovely time.Glynn-Carney: Nick [Hoult], and Lily [Collins], and Dome [Karukoski,] and everyone included as well.

Bringing a story as heavy as J.R.R. Tolkien’s participation in World War I needs a fair amount of levity, and the inclusion of Geoffrey Smith, Robert Gilson and Christopher Wiseman’s stories more than does the job. With earlier portions of the film focusing on their social club, the “Tea Club and Barrovian Society,” or TCBS for short, there’s a sort of Dead Poets Society energy in the group’s time swearing an oath to changing the world through art.

Without those performances landing, there’s no believable friendship that gets J.R.R. Tolkien through his experiences in World War I. If there are two relationships that build the foundation of what makes Tolkien different from the average biopic, the fellowship of the TCBS is equally as important as Tolkien’s love affair with fellow orphan Edith Bratt.

Even in the footage from our time in the interview with Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson and Tom Glynn-Carney, it’s apparent that the three are so perfectly matched that it was an easy feat to bring that crucial friendship to life. And you can see it for yourself in the clip below:

Just as the Fellowship of The Ring bonded over the protection of Middle-Earth, the Tea Club and Barrovian Society bound themselves over the arts, and their effect on the world at large. It’s a relationship that’s key to the overall picture that Tolkien paints, and it’s one you can currently see in theaters this weekend.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.