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Lord of the Rings movies had “one big problem” from Tolkien’s writing

J.R.R. Tolkien's novels paved the way for the best fantasy movie series of all time, but when it came to translating those books onto screen, there were issues.


The Lord of the Rings movies succeed because, above all, they manage to bring the vibrant world created by J.R.R. Tolkien to life. From Tolkinn’s novels, co-writer Philippa Boyens was tasked with transporting the essence of all-important novel themes like friendship, loyalty, justice, and sacrifice.

Needless to say, Boyens succeeded at this, with The Lord of the Rings trilogy being among some of the best movies ever made. But when it came to crafting all The Lord of the Rings movies in order, Boyens admitted that it wasn’t easy. In a 2003 roundtable interview with The One Ring, the screenwriter opened up about how adapting the best Lord of the Rings characters and writing how The Lord of the Rings cast should play them made one thing abundantly clear about Tolkien’s writing.

“Well, [The Lord of the Rings] is an incredibly truthful story. But it’s not slick, and [Tolkein] needed an editor,” she revealed. “God knows the amount of repetition we came across when you actually get into those books. A big problem for us was that a lot of the stuff he did was in reportage […] He had a great idea and then [we’d have to] kind of go back and rewrite it.”

She continued, “For example, you could tell that he had this wonderful idea about how Gandalf escaped from Saruman […] Add why didn’t he do that the whole time? Why didn’t he follow Gandalf? Why was it reportage.”

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An editor, Boyens added, would have been invaluable because they “would have said, you know, take the audience and tell the story from that immediacy. Maybe that would have been easy.”

Still, Tolkein writing his books the way he wanted to was “his privilege,” according to Boyens. “I think what’s so great about this is that he didn’t compromise anything. It told the story the way he wanted to tell it, which is why it is so rich and why it is so personal because it’s a very personal story.”

For more on this very personal story in the Shire, check out our listicles on the best movies based on books, and the best fantasy movies.