J.R.R. Tolkien has a director, and believe it or not, it isn’t Peter Jackson.
Middle Earth, a biopic planned for the author behind The Lord of the Rings book series, will instead be directed by James Strong. If you’ve never heard of him, that’s OK. He’s directed a lot of British television, primarily Doctor Who and a pair of episodes of its racy spin-off Torchwood during the Russell T. Davies era. Strong also directed early episodes of Downton Abbey and later added seven episodes of Broadchurch.
On this side of the pond, Strong most recently directed two episodes of the Hulu limited series 11.22.63, based on the novel by Stephen King.
This time around, Strong will take on a script from a new writer, Angus Fletcher, who spent six years researching Tolkien and interviewing those close to him, according to Deadline.
Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne, two former New Line Cinema executives who actually pushed through Jackson’s versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy some 15 years ago, will produce Middle Earth through their Unique Features company.
The story, according to Deadline, follows Tolkien’s early life, as well as his romance of Edith Bratt, to whom he’d eventually marry. It also will tackle the impact World War I had on Tolkien, which helped inspire his stories that would become The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Shaye, who also pushed through A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 that put New Line on the map, has stayed somewhat busy in recent years since leaving the studio he founded in 2008. In fact, he’s producing two films that are currently in post-production – the indie horror flick The Party Crasher and a thriller he’s directing himself called Ambition.
The Lord of the Rings films earned $3 billion worldwide, not accounting inflation. A second trilogy based on The Hobbit, also directed by Jackson, earned another $3 billion. The first trilogy won 17 Oscars, including Best Picture for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
No production timeline has been released for Middle Earth, but Deadline suggests Strong and Shaye could have something ready for film festivals by next year.
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