Some months ago a new Motion Picture project, Jack and Tollers, was announced by Third Dart Studios. The film, they say, “is the true story of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien and the vital relationship shared by these two acclaimed authors.” Please check out the concept trailer here.
We were fortunate to have the honor
of interviewing one of the co-writers for Jack and Tollers, Darren Scott Jacobs. This is what he had to say:
1. Did you grow up with the works of Lewis and/or Tolkien?
Actually I didn’t grow up with their works. I do remember being at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in 1971 and finding a description of THE LORD OF THE RINGS in an Almanac of that year. Even though I had no idea what the story was REALLY about (and I was 10 years old) it left a mark on me even to this day.
2. What are your favorite books from both authors (if any)?
My favorite book by ‘Jack’ is TILL WE HAVE FACES and by ‘Tollers’ is THE TWO TOWERS. I could write an entire essay on each book, but for now let’s just say they move me in profound ways.
3. Do or did Lewis and Tolkien have any influence on your life or career in any way?
I’ve been working on our screenplay JACK AND TOLLERS for four years, so I’d have to say BOTH authors have had a strong influence on my career AND my life. I’ve been studying Jack’s work very closely since 1985 and NEVER tire of his words and stories. Tolkien is more difficult to read but worth all the effort. Let’s be honest, both men are some of the greatest voices in literature and will long be remembered when most writers of our age will vanish in silence.
4. Was there anything specific that gave you the desire to create this film?
In 2009 I had the great privilege of being a guest speaker for the C.S. Lewis Society in both Oxford and Cambridge. During that tour I spent time at places I had longed dreamed of visiting (including the Kilns and the Eagle and Child Pub). Shortly after, I was asked to write a documentary about Lewis’ life…and that spun into the possibility of a feature length film. Four years later I’m still working on the movie. You asked in your first question if I grew up with Lewis and Tolkien’s work (I did not); I hope this film connects strongly with our youth so they can.
5. Will the film focus on a certain aspect or certain years (before friendship, during, after) of Lewis and Tolkien’s life?
It will span BOTH their lives from childhood to 1942 (hence the four years struggling with the script). It was a very difficult process so we had Linda Seger (the best Script Consult in Hollywood) go through our script twice top to bottom. I can tell you one thing: there is only ONE flashback in the narrative structure of the script. We simply did not want the story to be so episodic that it was fractured so as to distract enjoyment of the storyline for our audience. That is a very DIFFICULT task to achieve. Within the many revisions we have, we’ve tried to tell the story from all possible angles. The real trick is to find the best one.
6. Are you hoping for this film to be like a story or a documentary? And are you hoping to convey a message through the film?
It’s not a documentary but it is grounded in historic fact. When telling a story about a person of history in film, you still are accountable to expectations of entertainment value and financial return. About 85% of our film is grounded in what ACTUALLY happened. Do we embellish at times? Of course, because no one taped the conversations between these men. Our message is focused on the power of friendship and how it shapes our lives.
7. What was it like working with Louis Markos? Did you gain more knowledge of Lewis that you didn’t already know?
Lou and I have become dear friends and true ‘brothers’ through the process of writing the script. We’ve spent far too many long nights in discussions and revisions to even count. Of course Lou is a world renowned C. S. Lewis Scholar, but he knew early on writing a screenplay was a completely different METHOD of telling a story. A good screenplay is ‘cave paintings’ on a wall; it’s a story told in images, not dialogue. One of Lou’s best scenes is a nightmare that Jack has about lions…one of my favorite scenes in the entire script because there is NO dialogue.
8. Do you have a release date set for the film? If not, perhaps the year and/or season?
I’m hesitant because I believe in under promising and over delivering. Let’s just say SOON as Forrest Gump took 14 years to make; I’m confident, we’ll beat that. 2015 is our mark.
9. Can we expect any updates for the film any time soon?
Yes. My producer Chris Dodge has been in London for production meetings and location scouting the past two weeks. We should have an update of the film’s status very soon.
10. Is there any way that we fans can support Jack and Tollers?
Follow us on our Facebook page by ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ with others. We intend to make a powerful film that honors the friendship between these men and their lasting literary legacy. We’ve heard through the grapevine of other projects about Lewis and Tolkien who do not share our vision. We have absolutely no interest in sensationalism or controversy; Jack and Tollers’ lives were dramatic enough on their own.
11. Do you have any advice to share with those hoping to go into film-making, especially screenwriting?
Doug Gresham told me some years back NOT to pursue screenwriting. I must admit, there’s a part of me that understands what he meant now. The Lewis/Tolkien project has demanded a great deal of time and energy from my life. But I continue to press on with Lou and my producer Chris, simply because I know eventually a film about these men WILL be made and I want to be in the mix to ENSURE it honors them. Believe me, I know first-hand what some production companies would have done with the storyline to sell tickets. I’m NOT willing to do that. These Men have earned their place in history because of their hard work and creative vision; I intend to do the same in depicting their story.
As far as screenwriting: First and foremost, TAKE A CLASS. That’s step one; when you finish that feel free to call me and we’ll discuss step two.
We recently learned that Tony Nixon has been cast in the film as James Welch! Please check out the announcement here.
For updates on the film, visit the official Jack and Tollers facebook page. We will be sure to follow up on any future news relating to Jack and Tollers!