The Times
December 11, 2001

Tolkien Fellowship Splits Over Rings Film
Adam Sherwin

CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN, son of the Lord of the Rings author and protector of his father’s heritage, yesterday distanced himself from the much-awaited film on the eve of its London premiere.

Ever since J. R. R. Tolkien sold the film rights to his mythic epic for 10,000 in 1969, Christopher Tolkien, his son and literary executor, has privately feared a cinematic disaster, although until now he has kept silent on the subject.

Yesterday, Mr Tolkien, 77, went public with his concerns. “My own position is that The Lord of the Rings is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form,” he said. He insisted that he did not disapprove of the films — there are to be three — “whatever their cinematic quality”, nor think ill of those who have given them their support.

However, his stance has caused unhappiness within the Tolkien family, with his son Simon claiming that he has been frozen out because he supports the 70 million cinematic venture.

Christopher Tolkien’s opinion will weigh heavily with the author’s more obsessive fans who fear that the New Zealand director, Peter Jackson, will betray the text in his take on the trilogy.

Tolkien sent packing the first set of Hollywood businessmen who asked to acquire the film rights to The Lord of the Rings in 1957. But by 1969, aged 81, a looming tax bill forced him to sell. He died five years later.

It fell to the Oxford professor’s sons, Christopher, John and Michael, and his daughter Priscilla, to protect their father’s heritage in the face of myriad money-spinning offers.

Christopher Tolkien worked most closely with his father, even finishing the Silmarillion after his death, and has been hostile to any film production after a 1978 animated version was widely criticised.

In a statement released through his lawyers yesterday Mr Tolkien said that the deal his father signed “deprived the Tolkien estate of control over any and every aspect of the mode and content of whatever films might be made”. Jackson, who is charged with creating one of most lucrative franchises in film history, said: “Having to run everything past the Tolkien estate would have been a disaster.”

Mr Tolkien said that “almost” all the family members had agreed that they should not attempt to influence or associate themselves with Jackson’s films.

However, Simon Tolkein, a 42-year-old criminal barrister from West London, has become an active supporter of the films and as a result is said to be no longer on speaking terms with his father.

Simon Tolkien met Jackson two years ago, encouraged him with the project and will attend Monday’s premiere with his wife and son.

He has claimed: “I am upset that articles are appearing saying the Tolkien family doesn’t approve of the film, because it isn't true of me. I am looking forward to the premiere.”

Simon Tolkien was close to his grandfather and was reported to have been excluded from the board of the company that represents the Tolkien estate. He said that the exclusion was “very cruel”. The board currently consists of Simon’s father, his stepmother, Baillie, and his cousin, Michael.

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