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The men behind the world of Middle Earth and Westeros touched base at Westwood’s Village Theater on Wednesday evening.
At the Los Angeles premiere of Tolkien, fans donned platinum wigs, pointy elf ears and wizard hats to pay homage to the late writer and the worlds he created. They surrounded the film’s carpet, decorated with trees and stones, where the movie’s stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and the evening’s special guest, George R.R. Martin, would walk.
Martin spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on his first reactions to Tolkien’s stories, the unknown stories of the Middle Earth creator and what it’s like to be compared to the literary legend.
“I was blown away. It was a different type of fantasy,” he told THR. “I like Robert E. Howard, but this was something far more epic and towering and deep.”
Martin shared that he learned about Tolkien’s work when he was about 12 years old and bought a paperback edition he could afford. The author’s words and the worlds he created have touched many generations of fantasy fanatics, but not many people know too much about his life experiences, Martin said. But he said he feels Tolkien will give viewers and Tolkien fans a new side to author, depicting his time as an orphan and his traumatizing experiences in World War I.
On constantly being compared with Tolkien, Martin said, “it’s very flattering to be mentioned in the same sentence as Tolkien,” and that he views the English writer as “the master” of fantasy writing.
“For me, it’s like being compared to Dickens or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or any of the great writers of English literature, which I rank Tolkien in that category,” he said.
For Nicholas Hoult, who plays the famed author in the movie, embodying Tolkien required more than just reading The Hobbit and other Lord of the Rings books. Hoult told THR that his research included delving into a number of Tolkien biographies, analyzing interviews with the author, visiting the locations where he grew up and copying the paintings and drawings that inspired the narratives Tolkien would share starting in 1937.
Hoult said that the idea of telling the story of the man behind the notable movie and literary series attracted him to the project in the first place.
“I had read the script and realized that I knew nothing about the man who created these legends and these stories that I loved,” he said. “You read this story about this young orphan boy finding friendship, and fellowship, and love and all these things, and that’s something I relate to and love.”
Starring alongside Hoult is Collins, who plays Edith Bratt, Tolkien’s wife and eventual inspiration for a number of Lord of the Rings characters.
Conducting research for Edith wasn’t the easiest thing to do, Collins said. Where Hoult looked to biographies and interviews, Collins resorted to pictures and Tolkien’s characters Beren and Luthien in the film franchise. She said she reread parts of the storyline and used the characteristics from the film to inform her depiction of Edith, “a real, grounded person.”
Collins also revealed that playing Edith was a source of frustration. “She wanted so much for herself and because of her being a woman of that time period, and her social standing and being an orphan, she doesn’t have a lot of that ability,” she said. The actress said that if she had the chance to speak with Edith, she would ask her about the lack of opportunities for ambitious women during the time.
Following a screening of Tolkien, Hoult, Collins and director Dome Karukoski joined Martin for a Q&A. During the panel, the four discussed Tolkien’s legacy, the research process and each of their favorite books.
“Gandalf can kick Dumbledore’s ass,” Martin said when Collins shared that the Harry Potter books are some of her favorites.
For Hoult, East of Eden was his favorite and Karukoski said The Great Gatsby was his. Karukoski, who shared how Tolkien’s youth resonated with him on a personal level, said that the author wasn’t very fond of biographies. He said Tolkien thought that real life can’t be interesting.
If Tolkien came back to life, Karukoski told THR, “I’d love to be sitting on a cloud, smoking a pipe (with him) and ask ‘Is (biography) interesting? Is it now good drama?’”
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