Tolkien star Nicholas Hoult defends author biopic following family criticism

The actor told RadioTimes.com that at least one member of Tolkien's family was involved in the film, after the Tolkien Estate issued a statement distancing itself from the project

Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins in Tolkien (Fox)

Nicholas Hoult has defended the new biopic of JRR Tolkien after the author’s family criticised the making of the film.

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The Tolkien Estate released a statement ahead of the movie’s release saying that the organisation, made up of members of the author’s family who manage his legacy, “do not endorse it or its content in any way”.

However, Hoult, who stars as the Lord of the Rings creator in the film, has told RadioTimes.com that at least one of Tolkien’s descendents was involved in the film.

The actor said that Tolkien’s great grandson, who while not connected to the Estate officially, did play a part in bringing the story to life.

“His great grandson did come to set and was part of the World War One sequence, and came to the premiere last night, and I think liked the movie,” Hoult told RadioTimes.com.

“Hopefully when the rest of them see it they’ll enjoy it. As a fan, interpreting a story that a lot of people will be inspired by and love has been wonderful.

“I feel like the themes of this – love and friendship and creativity and imagination and all those things –are kind of inspiring, and I felt inspired learning about the man and then seeing what he created. So hopefully other people will feel the same, and the Estate will like it.”

In April, the Tolkien Estate issued a statement distancing itself from the film.

“The family of JRR Tolkien and the Tolkien Estate are aware of the Fox Searchlight motion picture entitled Tolkien that is due for release in May 2019,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The family and the Estate wish to make clear that they did not approve of, authorise, or participate in the making of the film. They do not endorse it or its content in any way.”

Also starring Lily Collins, Colm Meaney and Derek Jacobi, Tolkien follows the author from his younger years through the quads of Oxford, through the trenches of World War One and to his very first steps creating the world of Middle Earth – and Hoult says he was surprised by just how much he didn’t know about the man he was playing.

“It’s bizarre really,” Hoult said. “I read The Hobbit when I was like 12, and his mythology is so steeped in pop culture and everything that we know nowadays. And then suddenly I realised I knew nothing about the man and where those stories originated.

“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s remarkable.’ And then reading his story, I realised he had the most incredible life. And we focussed on the early part of that in this film. But I just thought it was a wonderful, beautiful story.”

Now, though, Hoult’s a Tolkien expert – or at least he finally knows how to pronounce his name.

“I was saying it wrong for years!” Hoult laughed. “I was saying Tol-KIN, and then through learning about him for this I realised it’s Tol-KEEN.

“I would walk around just saying ‘Tol-keen, Tol-keen, Tol-keen’, just getting it to sound natural in my head. It’s pretty important when you’re playing Tolkien to know how to say Tolkien.”

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Tolkien is in cinemas now