Informations and abstract
Keywords: Tolkien, biopic, Dome Karukoski, Humphrey Carpenter, biography, celebrity writer.
This paper explores Dome Karukoski’s Tolkien (2019), a biopic portraying the formative years of the renowned fantasy author. The movie is discussed in connection with Humphrey Carpenter’s 1977 biography, aptly considered as a nodal point in the rhizomatic network of the Tolkien phenomenon. The fortune of Tolkien in the media landscape is investigated in terms of cultural dynamics and intermedial exchange, of appropriation and adaptation, and of commodification and mediatisation. This is done by reconstructing its most salient features and phases, with an eye to safeguarding two distinct but interrelated interests: on the one hand, literary legacy and on the other, financial gains. The case study offers a glimpse into several key issues, most notably the narrative shape given in this biopic to the connections between the life and works of a celebrity writer, the difficulty of presenting them on screen, the ideological interpretation of omissions and additions and, ultimately, the wavering relationship between the man and his myth – between Tolkien and the cultural meanings attached to his name.