January 7, 2001
Lord of Rings Films
'Will Force Tolkien Family Into Hiding'
THE making of a £66 million film trilogy of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings will force the late author's family into hiding to escape deranged fans, his son has told The Telegraph.
The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the films, starring Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler and Sean Bean, is due to be released later this year - an event eagerly awaited by the film industry and the public but not by the Tolkien family.
Father John Tolkien, a retired Roman Catholic priest, says that family members are already constantly harassed by devotees of his father's work and predicts that the extra interest generated by the films will mean that anyone with the Tolkien name will now have to disguise their origins.
"The Tolkien family is under perpetual abuse of one kind or another. It goes on all the time," said Fr Tolkien, 83. "I am anticipating endless bother when the film actually comes out." His outburst sheds light on rumours within the film industry of a rift between the Tolkien family and New Line Cinema, the makers of the film. The film rights to The Lord of the Rings have not been owned by the Tolkien family since the 1960s, leaving New Line Cinema with no legal obligation to consult the author's children.
Despite its status as one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2001, members of the Tolkien estate have refused all offers of involvement with the production, and until now have declined to give a reason. J. R. R. Tolkien himself, a professor of English at Oxford University who died in 1973, opposed the commercialisation of his work.
Fr Tolkien said: "It's quite incredible. When I think when we were growing up these were just stories that we were told. Personally, when you've grown up with something you don't want someone else putting their finger on it." He added that many of those harassing the family were "people wanting money". Others were obsessed fans wanting to catch a glimpse of their idol's relatives. His brother Christopher was already in hiding, he said.
"Christopher, who acts as literary editor for the Tolkien estate, doesn't live in England any more and when he comes to England he doesn't use his own name. Christopher lives in France and has had some trouble recently with people trying to get at him. He keeps wild boar in his garden, which is a little bit dangerous but they are useful when people become a nuisance." New Line Cinema declined to comment.
Richard Crawshaw of The Tolkien Society, which is a registered charity devoted to promoting and protecting the author's work, said: "The Tolkien family are definitely not on board as far as the film is concerned.The general view is that there is not a need for it as it is a book of words and was not created to be a dramatic presentation."
Mr Crawshaw said that ever since interest in Tolkien's work took off in the late 1960s on campuses in America, the family has proved attractive to devotees who initially harassed the author and then his children. "We had an incident at our conference last September in which people with false media credentials tried to cause the Tolkien family hassle. We are now reviewing security procedures." The Lord of the Rings, which has sold 50 million copies worldwide, has developed a following over the past 30 years, particularly following the release of the game Dungeons and Dragons.
With the advent of the internet the number of fans has grown further, with hundreds of sites now devoted entirely to discussions of Tolkien's work. Fr Tolkien has ordered his solicitors to take legal action against one website, which is advertising a new book containing allegations about his conduct while working as a priest. They have sent letters to the printers and typesetters demanding that they undertake not to disseminate the book, which they claim is defamatory. Steven Maier, a lawyer acting for Fr Tolkien, said: "The author makes a wide variety of allegations and I can't get into a discussion about them."