Ever since Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies blew up at the box office, there’s been a desire to replicate that success by adapting more from Tolkien, including his own life story. Deadline reports that Finnish director Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland) has signed on to direct Tolkien, which will focus on the titular author “as he finds friendship, love, and artistic inspiration among a fellow group of outcasts at school prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.”
Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road) is the frontrunner to portray the iconic fantasy author, who was born in South Africa and fought in the First World War prior to writing the fantasy novels that he’s become famous for.
This isn’t the only biopic about Tolkien in the works. Back in November, word broke that New Line Cinema was putting together a film called Middle Earth, to be helmed by director James Strong (Broadchurch, Downton Abbey). The film will follow Tolkien’s courtship with Edith Bratt, who would later become his wife, and the inspiration for one of his first Middle-earth stories.
It looks as though Karukoski’s film won’t tread over the exact same ground as Strong’s film, instead focusing on Tolkien and a group of friends (Robert Gilson, Geoffrey Bache Smith, Tolkien, and Christopher Wiseman) who called themselves the Tea Club and Barrovian Society (TCBS). The four were particularly close; they attended school together and shared one another’s writings for critiquing. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, they each joined the military and fought on the front lines.
This is where the story is tragic: Gilson and Smith were killed during the war, events that profoundly impacted Tolkien, who later said that the war “had come down like winter on his creative powers in their first bloom.”
The author incorporated some of his experiences into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, utilizing the brutal imagery of warfare in his books, and channeling the great sense of loss that was felt in Europe after the war.