The Toronto Star
June 30, 2000

Hollywood Hobbits Upset Tolkien Fans
Maurice Chittenden

LONDON - It may provide a frisson for Frodo Baggins, but it is causing unrest in Middle Earth.

The introduction of glamorous Hollywood stars such as Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett to a new movie version of The Lord Of The Rings has upset the family and followers of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Literary fans who follow Tolkien's words with almost trollish devotion are angry that minor female roles have been expanded to provide a love interest. There are even fears that Tyler, who co-starred opposite Bruce Willis in the space action adventure Armageddon, will turn the role of Lady Arwen into a warrior princess.

Tolkien's fantasy, which was voted the best book of the 20th century in several polls last year, is being filmed in New Zealand as a Star Wars-style trilogy. Shakespearean actor Ian McKellen plays Gandalf.

The first film, directed by Peter Jackson and to be released next year, is the second attempt at putting Lord Of The Rings on to the big screen.

A cartoon version appeared in 1978 but was condemned by critics and Tolkien fans alike.

The release of a trailer for the new film, however, has broken Internet records. It was downloaded by 6.6 million people in its first week. But its contents have alarmed members of the Tolkien Society, who are to discuss Tyler's role and that of Blanchett, who plays Galadriel, at their annual Oxonmoot, or meeting in Oxford, Eng. in September.

Arwen is described by Tolkien as "such loveliness in living thing Frodo had never seen before nor imagined in his mind."

Galadriel, though described as an aged queen of elves, is played by Blanchett, the 30-year-old Australian actress who performed the title role in Elizabeth, the award-winning film about the Tudor queen.

Ian Collier, spokesperson for the Tolkien Society, said: "We have heard that Arwen is leading an elf army at one point and replacing one of the hobbits in the fellowship. I do hope Liv Tyler is not going to turn it into a sword-and-sorcery type role."

John Tolkien, the author's son, said nobody had approached the family about the changes and the Hollywood stars had no significance.