Last week, I joined a handful of other journalists to visit Oxford, England, the old stomping grounds of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien, who is the subject of a new biopic called Tolkien. In addition to interviewing the stars of the film, Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, I cut together a video featuring several of the locations we visited, including filming locations used in the movie and some key places where the real Tolkien studied, worked, and drank. Check it out below.

Tolkien Locations and Interviews

I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard fan of Tolkien’s writings (I haven’t read The Silmarillion, for example), it was still a surreal experience to walk around the Eagle and Child knowing how instrumental that spot was to his creative process; it’s where he would shape versions of his stories and bounce them off of his friends and contemporaries, and their encouraging feedback was a huge reason he didn’t give up on his massively ambitious trilogy along the way.

It was also incredibly cool to hear from Alastair Lack, our tour guide who studied under Tolkien at Oxford. I couldn’t find a way to slip it into the video, but he told me about how, when Tolkien would give lectures at the college, the author would quietly enter the room and shout the first lines of Beowulf to silence the murmuring students before he began in earnest.

We got to visit Oxford’s Bodleian Library, one of the largest active academic libraries in the world, which houses the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings anywhere on the planet. Unfortunately for us, a detailed exhibition about Tolkien and his work is on display in New York City until next year (our own Hoai-Tran Bui talked about visiting that on a recent episode of /Film Daily), so we weren’t able to see any of his art up close and personal. We did, however, get to see Duke Humfrey’s library, which was used as Hogwarts’ library in the Harry Potter movies, but sadly, cameras weren’t allowed inside that part of the building. (You can get a sense of the place in this official video, if you’re interested.)

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school. Their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up and weather love and loss together, including Tolkien’s tumultuous courtship of his beloved Edith Bratt, until the outbreak of the First World War which threatens to tear their fellowship apart. All of these experiences would later inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-earth novels.

Tolkien arrives in theaters on May 10, 2019.

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