Edgbaston school reveals Hollywood links
What links Tom Cruise, Bilbo Baggins and the good people of Birmingham?
The answer lies in the archives of one of the city’s best-known schools.
King Edward’s School in Edgbaston has revealed unlikely links to two of Hollywood’s most anticipated festive blockbusters.
First to hit cinema screens on December 14 is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a trilogy of films based on the work of former King Edward’s pupil JRR Tolkien.
But the Lord of the Rings author, who was born in 1892, is not the only old Edwardian with a film out this Christmas.
Tom Cruise is taking the title role in cop thriller Jack Reacher, which opens on December 21 and is based on the best-selling novels by Lee Child, who studied at the independent school in the 1960s.
King Edward’s chief master John Claughton said he was proud of the school’s literary – and now celluloid – heritage.
He said: “It is rather wonderful that two of our pupils should have created such memorable and different characters as Bilbo Baggins and Jack Reacher.
“I suspect that Tolkien, who went on to be a professor at Oxford, and Child, who directed television for many years, are pretty different too.
“This is also the school that produced the artist Edward Burne-Jones, two Nobel Prize winners, Enoch Powell, Field Marshall Slim, Kenneth Tynan and Bill Oddie, so no-one could say there was a typical King Edward’s product.
“The school has always had a great academic reputation, but it has also celebrated the individual and the work and success of Tolkien and Child may reflect just that.”
Widely regarded as one of the great authors of the 20th Century, Tolkien won a foundation scholarship to study at King Edward’s in 1903 and stayed until he left for Oxford in 1911.
Records show he flourished during his time at the school, excelling in academic subjects and learning Greek alongside his own studies of Celtic, gothic and Finnish.
Tolkien was so accomplished in language that he delivered speeches in school debates in both Latin and Greek, and, in his final year, performed in a play entirely in Greek.
He also began to perfect his writing style at the school, and set up the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, where he and friends would discuss literature and critique each other’s work.
Child also won a foundation scholarship to King Edward’s, where he was a pupil from 1965 to 1973.
He studied law at the University of Sheffield before joining Granada Television, where he worked for 18 years.
Finding himself a victim of corporate restructuring at Granada, he put pen to paper and wrote the first in a series of Jack Reacher books that now number 17. Child said of his school days: “To paraphrase that old song about New York, if you can make it at King Edward’s, you can make it anywhere.
“The standard of achievement was – and still is, I’m sure – outstanding.
“Certainly it was easier to score simultaneous number one bestsellers in Britain and America than to come top of the class.
“The school produced extraordinary talents. I’m perhaps more visible than some, but less accomplished than most.”
Other successful writers to have studied at King Edward’s include Jonathan Coe, has achieved success with a number of novels, including The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle, after leaving the school in 1979.
More recent successes include Kieron Quirke and Robin French, who both left in 1997 and have written a number of screenplays, including BBC3 comedy series Cuckoo.