Pandora: Tolkien family feud heads for the courts

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The Independent Online

For all the success that the Lord Of The Rings trilogy enjoyed on the big screen, the ongoing bad blood between film executives and the family of JRR Tolkien, who wrote the books, has proved an unfortunate sub-plot.

The feud stems from allegations by the Tolkien Trust, run by the author's now elderly offspring Christopher and Priscilla, that it has not received "one penny" from the lucrative films. I now hear that matters will finally come to a head in October, following the confirmation of a trial date.

Should the Tolkiens prevail in their battle with Hollywood studio New Line Cinema, they could block the planned release of the "prequel" The Hobbit, which is again due to feature Sir Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf. "The litigation process is moving swiftly forward with the trial due to commence in Los Angeles on 19 October," says the family's spokesman Steven Maier. "It is expected to last several weeks."

Bonnie Eskenazi, a lawyer for the Oxford-based Tolkien Trust, adds: "Should this case go all the way through trial, we are confident New Line will lose its rights to release The Hobbit."

New Line's parent company Time Warner has declined to comment. The timing is worrying because The Hobbit's executive producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo del Toro have started pre-production in New Zealand, with filming currently scheduled to commence next year.

Shock as footballer turns to philosophy

Rio Ferdinand appears in a rare philosophical mood after the revelation that he spoke to Michael Jackson before the star's death. The King of Pop took the trouble to telephone the England and Manchester United defender to wish him luck with his new online magazine. Only Diego Maradona, forever remembered for illegally scoring with his hand against England in the World Cup, rivals Jacko in the hero stakes, according to Ferdinand. "I guess they're both famous for their hands," he helpfully points out. "The glove and the Hand of God."

Tatchell departs for Cornish odyssey

Even fervent admirers of the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell could be forgiven for initially raising a quizzical eyebrow at his latest crusade.

Tatchell will be in Truro this weekend, banging the drum for "gay marriage and Cornish rights" – a curious-sounding combo, on first impressions. While not the most obvious of political bedfellows, Tatchell tells me: "The campaign for gay rights and Cornish rights both involve challenging injustice."

It is reassuring that no one is clutching at straws, then.

Fonda finds herself

Pandora doubts Jane Fonda will be knocking back sangria after unpacking her holiday bags. The actress reveals: "I leave tomorrow for a five-day retreat at the Upaya Zen Centre in New Mexico. on 'The Neurobiology of We'. It explores neurobiology of empathy, compassion and relatedness." Presumably the karaoke kicks off after that?

Vaizey's vagueness

Days after calling for BBC Radio 1 to be sold off, the Shadow broadcasting minister Ed Vaizey still refuses to reveal his favourite DJ from yesteryear.

Despite repeated requests throughout the week for this urgent matter to be clarified, Vaizey's spokeswoman now tells me: "It's probably not one of his priorities." I find that hard to believe!