INTERVIEW: 'Hobbit' Screenwriter Philippa Boyens Won't Read 'The Silmarillion' Again Because It Will 'Break My Heart'

Philippa Boyens Interview The Hobbit

I was struck by the realization that if it wasn't for the addition of Galadriel to the movie, there would be zero –

Women! Yeah.

Moving forward –

She's very much part of the White Council, and they are going to have to deal with who or what resides in Dol Godur. As Professor Tolkien wrote her at this time, this part of the history, she is the most powerful being in Middle Earth.

Was he a great writer for women?

I think so.

I have some good news for you. I looked, on the schedule. There's no movie coming out December 2043.

(Intense laughter)

Don't pretend you don’t know where I'm going –

I'll be 80-something. I'll be 80 and somebody else will be doing it. That was really hard I have to say, that I couldn't go back there. [There are] extraordinary pieces of writing, extraordinary pieces of the puzzle in The Silmarillion. And we couldn't go near it. I haven't read it for 25 years. I just can't afford to have it in my head because we don't have any of the rights. And also it will just break my heart. I had to let it go.

Is there an expansion that you're proudest of? Something, perhaps, that audiences wouldn't know if they'd just read The Hobbit.

The Battle of Moria. The great animosity between the dwarves and the orcs — where that came from. I think delineating the difference between Bilbo and the dwarves — that sense of the dwarves having been part of a Diaspora, the loss of the homeland, the way that they wandered in the wild, the great longing and yearning. It's not just about the gold, because it could very easily just be a treasure hunt, this story. Which would be great rollicking children's literature, but it had to be more.

It's interesting that you say it in that way, because the book is very episodic.


And it is an adventure story. And there's a lot of deus ex machina.

Uh, hello? Eagles!

Yes! And here I feel like you made an effort to give everyone more agency. Gandalf talking to the moth. Bilbo confusing the Trolls.

Yes. We had to do that, I think. That's when you stop being such a fan of Professor Tolkien's and you actually have to put your screenwriter hat on and make the storytelling work as a film. Bilbo is too much a piece of baggage visually in the story that it becomes very hard to take his POV if he's that passive. So we had to make him more active. And, you know, Bilbo is very clever. And he's a quick thinker.

READ MORE on 'The Hobbit': 

Spoiler Talk: The Pity of Bilbo And Where Jackson & Co. Chose To End 'The Hobbit'

The Science of High Frame Rates, Or: Why 'The Hobbit' Looks Bad At 48 FPS

Richard Armitage Talks 'Hobbit' And Thorin Oakenshield, Takes A Phone Call From Sauron

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  • Amy Elsie says:

    Phillipa Boyens... Hmmm. What a scoundrel you and your so-called writing cohorts are. Please stop ruining Professor Tolkien's original, brilliant works. You are not him. Your adaptations (and above all your insipid and tedious alterations) are imbecilic and you should be ashamed of thinking you can best him simply because it's a cinematic, CGI, video-game attempt at a film. You have only written derivative popcorn rubbish, loosely based on Tolkien's works to get paid and think yourself brilliant. You are most certainly not. What a pleasure it is to know you won't be able to make a mockery of The Silmarillion as your age would only advance your demented belief that you would somehow know better. Write something of your own and see how that fares with an audience. In fact, try doing something, anything at all, that doesn't involve smoking fistfuls of Peter Jackson Extra Dim and Fran Walsh-Jackson Unoriginal Choke. Bleh.

    • Couldn't agree more -- Peter let Fran and Phillippa turn The Hobbit into a "woman-friendly" Lifetime channel fantasy that has no relation to the Middle Earth Tolkien produced. When Tolkien himself saw a staged performance of one his works, he questioned why they didn't use more of his dialogue as written. The few times the films use the exact words from Tolkien, (ex. "Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall.") they stand out and makes one realize how Tolkien would've voiced the same complaint about Jackson's work today. Tolkien's dialogue is brilliant and does not need a Shakespearean ear to follow. Ahh Peter, let them pick out your shirts and socks but you should've never let your female cohorts exclude Tolkien's lines from their own re-enactment. The Hobbit was unwatchable -- it's even put a pallor on LOTR -- but it has returned me to Tolkien himself so I thank you for that.

  • K. Caron says:

    I love Tolkien's works. I love the LOTR and Hobbit movies. Those are not mutually exclusive. Adaptations and changes are necessary because a novel is very different thing from a film. Two completely different art mediums that need different things to live and breathe. These adaptations ARE brilliant and the changes only enhance the story. Those individuals who claim to be Tolkien fans yet hate these film adaptations are missing the point. Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh are brilliant and I'm grateful to them for doing such justice to the original works that captured my heart and imagination as a child and as an adult. I'm grateful that I have an education in literature and film that allows me to truly appreciate the mastery required to do this successfully. I'm equally grateful that I have a heart and soul open enough to appreciate beauty in many art forms.

    • Matt says:

      I respectfully disagree with you. While there may be some need to "adapt" a story to move it from the page to the screen, there is no reason to make the story worse. I don't "hate" the films in their entirety, but I feel that the addition of a love story between an elf and dwarf, as well as the way they portray Bilbo in the film, are both unnecessary and diminish the integrity of the story and characters that Tolkien created. I feel that (as a true fan of Tolkien's works) they did a much better job adapting the LOTR novel to screen than The Hobbit. It's one thing to leave some unnecessary characters/sub-plots out to move a story along and create a good story/tempo during a movie. It's entirely disgraceful to create rubbish and add it to a story that so many know and love. I just re-read The Hobbit again (I've read it too many times to remember) and there is plenty of story to tell to make an exceptional movie. And it's fine that they went into the appendices of Tolkien's works to bring out Azog when telling the story, but to make him a primary antagonist is WEAK.
      Actually..I just came across this article. The author pretty much nails my feelings on the movie. While it could be expressed more eloquently, she hits all the main points!

      To each their own, but this is one disappointed Tolkien fan.

  • Psycho says:

    I recommend Peter Jackson's King Kong for anyone who wrestles with sleeplessness.