George R.R. Martin on ‘Lord of the Rings’ vs. ‘Harry Potter’: ‘Gandalf Could Kick Dumbledore’s Ass’

George R.R. Martin waves to photographers
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/S

“Game of Thrones” fans have a lot to thank J.R.R. Tolkien for.

“Thrones” author George R.R. Martin, along with stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins and director Dome Karukoski, discussed their personal connections to Tolkien and his “Lord of the Rings” series on the red carpet — or more accurately, the green carpet (a nod to the author’s verdant Middle Earth) — at the premiere of biographical film “Tolkien” on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Martin told Variety, “He made me love the form he created — epic fantasy. He redefined fantasy of everything that had been before.” He said that Tolkien’s epic trilogy format influenced “Game of Thrones.” Martin joked, “I started doing a trilogy called ‘Game of Thrones.’ Now my trilogy is seven books — if I finish the last two.”

Martin called the film “profoundly moving” and praised the movie for avoiding cliches like a struggling writer “sitting at a typewriter and crumpling a piece of paper.” Instead, he said the movie was about “Tolkien’s love affair. His friendship. Him as a young man in his university years. And that influences what he would later write.”

Hoult, who plays the titular character, had been a lifelong fan of Tolkien before signing on to the project. After researching and taking on the role he gained a new appreciation for the author. He told Variety, “Before, I didn’t understand where all these worlds and characters came from. I disappeared into his work and now I see the history and the layers.”

Hoult, having played J.D. Salinger in “Rebel in the Rye,” has made a bit of a habit playing idiosyncratic authors. “I’m really interested in the mind of the writer,” he said. 

Karukoski identifies with Tolkien’s upbringing as a loner from a poor family. “Those stories became my first friends. They became the world that I could escape to,” she said. 

Lily Collins had a poetic experience landing her role as Tolkien’s wife and muse Edith Bratt. She grew up reading “The Lord of the Rings,” which inspired her to audition as an elf in Peter Jackson’s films. She didn’t get the part, but now years later finally has her opportunity to be part of the Tolkien universe, albeit in a much different manner. “To get to play the woman who inspired [‘Lord of the Rings’] is kind of ironic,” she said. “I had to giggle when I got this role.”

Although Collins is a huge Tolkien fan, she did admit during the post screening Q&A that her favorite book series is “Harry Potter.” Martin responded, “Gandalf could kick Dumbledore’s ass.”

“Tolkien” hits theaters Friday, May 10.