December 11, 2001
Splits Over Rings Film
son of the Lord of the Rings author and protector of his fathers 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
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 Tolkiens opinion
will weigh heavily with the authors 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
It fell to the Oxford professors
sons, Christopher, John and Michael, and his daughter Priscilla, to protect their fathers
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 Jacksons 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 Mondays premiere with his wife
He has claimed: I am upset
that articles are appearing saying the Tolkien family doesnt 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 Simons father, his stepmother, Baillie, and his cousin,
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