WonderCon 2019: The Tolkien Panel Offers Insight Into the Beloved Author

Credit: FOX Searchlight

You’ve seen The Lord of the Rings movies and probably The Hobbit trilogy but how much do you know about the man who created the stories? Tolkien, a new film from Fox Searchlight, explores the real life of J.R.R. Tolkien and the friends and experiences that shaped his storytelling and creations.

During a panel at WonderCon 2019, director, Dome Karukoski, and cast members Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, Tom Glynn-Carney, and Nicholas Hoult discussed what it was like to approach one of the best known and most influential fantasy authors of all time.

For Karukoski, Tolkien has been something of a lifelong dream. “This started when I was 12 and I planned the script right then when I read The Lord of the Rings. It was the first time I entered that world of Middle-earth, and then that led to me reading The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion at a more adult age. In early 2017 I was sent the script and it actually featured his life,” he said, before adding, “It was a dream of mine to make The Lord of Rings movies, but I missed that opportunity.”

One of the new clips shown at WonderCon showcased the four friends in childhood deciding to form a club committed to “change the world through art.” After some discussion, they land on the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, which is much better in its abbreviated form, TCBS.

It’s a pivotal moment for Tolkien, as Hoult explained because those friends gave him the security and surety to explore his creativity. “He was orphaned at such a young age, and finding these guys and that relationship, somewhere that he could flourish and feel safe artistically, and that gave him a place in the world even though he wasn’t necessarily from the same privileged background,” Hoult said. “That’s what’s so important, I think the takeaway is the impact that can you have, that these guys had on Tolkien’s life and inspiration.”

Another clip shows the boys as young men taking turns sharing poetry, although Tolkien remains shy about sharing anything. However, in a later clip, he begs the Languages professor (played by Derek Jacobi) at Oxford for a place in his class. To show his passion for language, Tolkien offers the professor his book where he’s invented whole languages himself.

Tolkien is a film meant to connect the dots in the author’s life with his later works. It blends real life and fantasy together as he creates fantastical worlds and stories and imbues them with themes from his own experiences. Tolkien hits theaters on Friday, May 10.

Stephanie Coats