Anthony Boyle Talks “Tolkien”, Scorpius Malfoy, and the Importance of Interpretation
After three years as Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, both on Broadway and in the West End, Anthony Boyle is appearing on the big screen in the United Kingdom this weekend in Tolkien, a biographical drama about Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.
In a recent interview with the Evening Standard, Boyle touched on his experience of playing Scorpius Malfoy before discussing his role as Tolkien’s friend G.B. Smith and the controversy around the portrayal of that friendship in Tolkien.
Boyle was a fan of The Lord of the Rings before joining the cast of Tolkien, but much like his approach to the role of Scorpius, he didn’t let a dedicated fandom affect his performance.
I’d read HP [Harry Potter] as a kid. But I hadn’t read Tolkien. I was obsessed with the films. I’d religiously watch them. Every time Gandalf falls it gets me.
I’m not thinking, when I’m doing something, ‘Oh, this bit is going to mean this to them’; I just try and look at a scene, get the script, create a character, and try to make him a human being, to live truthfully from moment to moment.
For Boyle, this separation was particularly important when playing Scorpius, a character that resonated with a lot of people.
When I was playing Scorpius I’d have loads of letters from people who were bullied as kids and felt like outsiders, saying that the role was a light in their darkness and that it got them through a really dark time. It’s incredible to receive those things, but you can’t let it affect you too much because then it wouldn’t feel like a real character.
Tolkien has faced some criticism from the Tolkien estate, which has distanced itself from the production. And according to the Evening Standard, Tolkien certainly hints at something more than friendship between the author and his friend.
Boyle has said that the movie doesn’t directly comment on this relationship, but his research into letters between G.B. Smith and J.R.R. Tolkien has led him and cowriter Stephen Beresford to portray the characters in a certain way.
But when you look at the letters between Geoffrey and Tolkien, I found, as did Stephen Beresford that a lot of the language used is romantic, the way they write to one another. And Geoffrey’s last act on Earth, after he was hit by shrapnel, was to write a letter to Tolkien, not to his lover, not to his sweetheart — his last act as he was dying was to write a letter to Tolkien.
The Evening Standard has suggested that this friendship/romantic relationship controversy between characters isn’t something new for Boyle. The Scorpius and Albus friendship in Cursed Child has often been accused of queerbaiting, but in Tolkien, Boyle feels it’s important to let people explore their own interpretations.
Stephen said something brilliant — it’s not taking a liberty with this character; there’s no direct proof that he was in love with him, but if we don’t follow our nose when these clues are given to us then we’re writing these people out of history.
It doesn’t frustrate me because people are curious, and they think what they think. Your job as an artist is to make it as you see fit, and then let people interpret it however they want. That’s what art is.
Check out the trailer for Tolkien below, and check out Tolkien in UK theaters now and in the United States starting May 10.