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New Movies to Highlight Friendship Between Creators of Narnia and Middle Earth

As Hollywood works its way through dramatizing the fantasy novels, several hope to tell a more historical tale of real-world friendship.
New Movies to Highlight Friendship Between Creators of Narnia and Middle EarthWikimedia Commons and sfjalar/Flickr
C.S. Lewis (left) and J.R.R. Tolkien

The friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, well known to some devoted fans, may soon be a star of the silver screen along with the elves, dragons, hobbits, and marsh-wiggles of their creation.

Tolkien & Lewis, an $18 million British film that will feature the strength and the strain of the famous friendship, is aiming for an Easter release, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film, to be produced by Attractive Films and directed by Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider; The Expendables 2), is aimed at a faith-based audience.

"Lewis becoming the poster boy for Christianity upset Tolkien," said Attractive executive Wernher Pramschufer. "And obsessive genius Tolkien is blocked, terrified of finishing The Fellowship of the Ring, for fear of the strange, psychotic visions which torture him."

At the same time, Fox Searchlight and Peter Chernin of Chernin Entertainment are working on a biopic of Tolkein's life, titled simply Tolkien, which will focus on how his academic career at Oxford and his military service during World War I affected the creation of Middle Earth.

That both authors' works are enormously well known makes their friendship even more interesting to avid readers. Movie versions of the two men's books have seen some box-office success: The first three Narnia movies pulled in about $1.5 billion worldwide, while Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies have earned $4.9 billion. A fourth Chronicles of Narnia movie—initially planned to be The Magician's Nephew but announced last fall to be The Silver Chair—is in the works, under new direction from the first three films. The third installment of Tolkien's Hobbit is due out in December.

The relationship between Lewis and Tolkien, both professors at Oxford during the interwar period in the early twentieth century, has been credited for the creation of both Narnia and Middle Earth, according to author Colin Duriez, who wrote Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (Hiddenspring, 2003). While Tolkien helped Lewis to fit together reason and imagination, Duriez said Lewis encouraged Tolkien to finish writing and to publish his trilogy.

The two fit were part of the Inklings, a group of Oxford academics who gathered to think and read and argue. Here Lewis and Tolkien took opposite sides in a faculty argument over literature curriculum, but were drawn together by their love of myth and legend. (Duriez also wrote an imagined discussion between the two friends on science fiction.)

Other cinematic versions of the authors' lives are also underway: After funding fell through for The Lion Awakes, a film based on Lewis' spiritual awakening, the producers shifted the focus to the friendship between the men and shifted the title to Jack & Tollers, according to executive producer Chris Doge. This film is aiming for a 2015 release.

CT often writes about both men, including in-depth looks at both Tolkien and Lewis, their argument over marriage (and who we agree with), and the sneaky paganism of Lewis. CT has listed the best websites on Lewis and the top sites on Tolkien.

[Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and sfjalar/Flickr]

Posted:July 18, 2014 at 10:02AM
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