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I was reading a couple of posts on forums where people said that "The Silmarillion" would make a great basis for an action movie, a sequel (or would that be prequel?) to LOTR and Hobbit.

But someone went all negative on that idea and said that Peter Jackson can't ever do Silmarillion movie, even if he wanted to, and alluded to the fact that this was a fact and not an opinion.

Is there some proof to that statement and if so, why is that the case?

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Personally, I liked the LotR trilogy's movies a lot but felt The Hobbit was a little drawn out. Why should The Hobbit get 2 movies whereas each much larger trilogy book got one? Seems like they are just milking it now. How many movies would The Silmarillion blow up into? One for each small section and 3 for the Quenta Silmarillion? –  jon_darkstar Jan 4 '14 at 15:38
@jon_darkstar - LOTR was NOT a trilogy. It was concieved of as one book, and merely split up for publishing reasons –  DVK Jan 4 '14 at 15:39
It's been a while, but pretty sure it was organized as 6 "books". Either way, doesn't change my opinion about length - each is much larger than The Hobbit. –  jon_darkstar Jan 4 '14 at 15:41
I'd heard that some material from the Silmarillion had been slipped into the Hobbit movies. Wouldn't be surprised, as very little of what has been in these movies so far comes directly from the book, and how else would you expect to pad out such a short book into three 2+ hour movies? Make up completely new characters and throw in people from the other trilogy? (Oh wait...) –  Darrel Hoffman Jan 5 '14 at 19:02
The Silmarillion, can be neither a sequel or prequel. It is like having a movie on the siege of Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars and then, another movie for the Complete Duration of the Peloponnesian Wars. The first movie is just a detailed part of the second. The Silmarillion is a Superset of Hobbit and LotR, and it includes them both, albeit in less detail. –  ThunderGr Feb 15 '14 at 17:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 72 down vote accepted

Short version:

  • The rights to "The Silmarillion" belong to Tolkien estate

  • Peter Jackson's movie adaptations were NOT positively recieved by the estate, especially Christopher Tolkien. He expressed that directly to Jackson, and Jackson stated so in an interview. From the article linked below:

    Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R. Tolkien and the editor his father’s posthumously published work The Silmarillion, did an interview with Le Monde and had nothing nice to say about Peter Jackson’s adaptations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Asked about meeting with the director, Tolkien told the interviewer:

    "They gutted the book, making an action movie for 15-25 year olds. And it seems that The Hobbit will be of the same ilk. Tolkien became...devoured by his popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of the time. The gap widened between the beauty, the seriousness of the work, and what it has become is beyond me. This level of marketing reduces to nothing the aesthetic and philosophical significance of this work."

    As you might imagine, that quote got back to the filmmaker. Later that month, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was part of the Warner Bros. panel at San Diego Comic-Con and Jackson and many members of the cast were in attendance. During the question and answer portion of the presentation, Jackson was asked by a fan if there was any chance he would direct an adaptation of The Silmarillion after the end of the Hobbit movies, and the director quickly shut the idea down. He explained:

    "I don’t think the Tolkien estate liked those films. I don’t think The Silmarillion will go anywhere for quite a long time."

  • Thus, there's low chance that in the near future, Jackson will obtain the rights.

A good article on the topic is here. Among other things, it honestly states that - as much as "creative differences of opinion" between Tolkien Jr. and Jackson - it's at least partially about money:

In an interview with Le Monde back in 2012, Tolkien Estate lawyer Cathleen Blackburn recounted, "These hugely popular films apparently did not make any profit! We were receiving statements saying that the producers did not owe the Tolkien Estate a dime."

Given what happened with Mary Poppins Disney adaptaton (she didn't want to sell, and eventually gave in as she needed money), one can predict that the chances of eventual Silmarillion adaptation are correlated to the amount of greed on the part of Estate owners and the amount of money they expect to make on any licensing/rights deal. But short term, that may be tempered by Christopher Tolkien's opinion.

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Artificially inflating costs is a common way for studios to avoid paying money to rights-holders. My guess is that the Tolkien Estate will be holding out for a gazillion dollars up-front before they licence out Silmarillion. –  Richard Jan 4 '14 at 1:14
@Richard - I'm sure they would settle for one-fourteenth share of the profits. Or a huge gem. –  DVK Jan 4 '14 at 1:15
Just to expand on what Christopher Tolkien said - I think his quote seems pretentious without some background. His father spent most of his life working on the LotR universe, and though it might not be apparent to the casual reader of LotR or The Hobbit, his beliefs and philosophy underpin all his works. Things happen because they had to happen that way to fit in JRRT's framework. Since Christopher spent his whole life in his father's works, it's easy to see why he'd feel that way given what happened in the LotR movies. I doubt the rights will be sold as long as he lives, regardless of money. –  Shamshiel Jan 4 '14 at 1:20
@DVK: um, a share of the profits is exactly what they would (and should) not agree to, see quote above. Actually I'm surprised that they ever did - even 5 minutes of research should have told them how Hollywood accounting works. Either the person who made that deal was astonishingly incompetent, or they deliberately went for a huge upfront payment because they didn't expect the movies to be very successful. –  Michael Borgwardt Jan 4 '14 at 10:03
Yes, the estate owns the characters; all Jackson has access to is movie rights (it's not correct to say that Jackson "owns" anything here: he's directing and writing the scripts for sure, but actual ownership of the movie rights is with Saul Zaentz - see middleearth.com/about.html). –  Darth Melkor Jan 4 '14 at 14:27

Aside from the creative differences, there are two different companies involved here.

Middle-earth Enterprises hold the movie (and certain other) rights to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which were sold to them (via United Artists) by JRRT himself in the 1960s.

The Tolkien Estate hold the copyright to all of Tolkien's works, including all rights to all other material that was not yet published when JRRT died.

The Jackson movies came about as a result of the Middle-earth Enterprises deal, and are nothing to do with the Tolkien Estate. However, as the Tolkien Estate hold these rights for the Silmarillion and all other works, and are unwilling to sell movie rights, these other works cannot be filmed.

This isn't being negative, it's just the way things are.

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Good point about different ownerships. –  DVK Jan 4 '14 at 1:10
I feel like there is a lot of negativity regarding the Tolkien estate. The collective estate may not be approving of PJ's work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However JRRT great grandchildren Mike and Royd were both in a New Zealand Airline safety video along with PJ. So there are at least some Tolkien family that aren't dead set disapproving of Peter Jacksons work :) –  Jared Jan 10 '14 at 0:47

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