Jul 21 2014 4:10pm

Competing J.R.R. Tolkien Biopics Present Different Takes on the Lord of the Rings Author

competing J.R.R. Tolkien biopics Tolkien & Lewis C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia The Lord of the Rings religion paranoia jealousy writers block Simon West

What if we were to tell you that there are two J.R.R. Tolkien movies coming to theaters around 2015, and it's not further splitting up the third Hobbit film?

We've already written about the Tolkien origin story (appopriately titled) Tolkien, but now there's a competing biopic that has snagged an Easter 2015 release. Because while Tolkien is about how the author's World War I service influenced his writing, this new contender Tolkien & Lewis delves into religion, and a rivalry that goes even deeper than Gandalf vs. Saruman.

Tolkien is being produced by Chernin Entertainment (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) from a script by Irish writer David Gleeson. Independent studio Attractive Films is taking on the smaller project of Tolkien & Lewis, with Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Expendables 2) directing. The latter's aim is to grab the “faith-based audience” with their tale of the friendship between Tolkien and author C.S. Lewis during their time at Oxford.

The two bonded over the horrors they witnessed as WWI veterans, as well as writers' block with their two masterpieces, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia series. It was actually the Catholic Tolkien who convinced his agnostic friend to convert to Christianity, which obviously helped get the creative juices flowing in crafting Narnia, Aslan, etc.

Unfortunately, their religious debates turned sour as their friendship was plagued by jealousy and paranoia: “Lewis becoming the poster boy for Christianity upset Tolkien,” says Attractive Films CEO Wernher Pramschufer. “And obsessive genius Tolkien is blocked, terrified of finishing The Fellowship of the Ring, for fear of the strange, psychotic visions which torture him.”

In a more meta sense, it's always fascinating to watch two biopics compete in Hollywood, especially when the books they detail are such important parts of the cultural consciousness.

2. Tehanu
The problem with the Tolkien-Lewis thing is that -- at best -- it grossly exaggerates the conflict between them while slighting their long and productive friendship ... and the thing about Tolkien's "visions" is a complete misapprehension of something he said. David Bratman has a really interesting post on this which suggests to me that you should be a little less accepting of the producers' spin (at )
Shelly wb
3. shellywb
It sounds like the director of Tolkien and Lewis is trying to turn a movie that should be about friendship and the value of a companion with which to argue great ideas into one that reflects his earlier films more than the truth.
4. David Allen Kimmel
I know it shouldn't any more, however, it still amazes me how those who claim to be "in the know" about Tolkien and his works (college professors, movie producers, etc.) seem to totally miss the point of his work, which, in his own words was to try his hand at telling a long, involved story.

At least now I know that there's one more movie I won't be watching next year (Tolkien vs Lewis), perhaps two. Thanks for the warning.

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