Evangeline Lilly on ‘The Hobbit’: It ‘changed my mind about acting’

Dec. 10, 2014 | 5:26 p.m.
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Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Ken Stott as Balin in "'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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John Bell as Bain and Luke Evans as Bard in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Dean O'Gorman and Aidan Turner in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Smaug, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Lee Pace as Thranduil and Ian McKellen as Gandalf in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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The orc Azog, voiced by Manu Bennett, appears in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Ian McKellen as Gandalf in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Hugo Weaving as Elrond in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Billy Connolly as Dain in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Luke Evans as Bard, Mary Nesbitt as Tilda, Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid and John Bell as Bain in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid and Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Bolg, performed by John Tui, in a scene from "'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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The Keeper of the Dungeons, performed by Conan Stevens, in a scene from "'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage and Aidan Turner in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Mary Nesbitt as Tilda, Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid and John Bell as Bain in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Luke Evans as Bard in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Todd Eyre / Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage and Aidan Turner in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Todd Eyre / Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Luke Evans as Bard in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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The orc Azog, voiced by Manu Bennett, appears in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Ken Stott as Balin, left, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo in "'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Lee Pace as Thranduil in the fantasy adventure movie "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny/Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Luke Evans as Bard in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny/ Warner Bros.)

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Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Ian McKellen as Gandalf in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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John Callen as Oin, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, Aidan Turner as Kili, William Kircher as Bifur, James Nesbitt as Bofur, Adam Brown as Ori, Jed Brophy as Nori, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Ken Stott as Balin and Stephen Hunter as Bombur in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Todd Eyre / Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo in "'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin and Martin Freeman as Bilbo in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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The Keeper of the Dungeons, performed by Conan Stevens, in a scene from "'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Luke Evans as Bard, left, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Jed Brophy as Nori, Ken Stott as Balin, John Callen as Oin, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, William Kircher as Bifur, Aidan Turner as Kili, Adam Brown as Ori, Peter Hambleton as Gloin, Mark Hadlow as Dori, Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Stephen Hunter as Bombur in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Director Peter Jackson, center, and Martin Freeman on the set of the fantasy adventure movie "The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny/Warner Bros.)

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Peter Jackson, left, and Ian McKellen on the set of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

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Peter Jackson, left, Luke Evans and Ian McKellen on the set of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny/ Warner Bros.)

One of the most controversial decisions “The Hobbit” filmmakers made was the addition of Silvan elf warrior Tauriel, an entirely new character not present in J.R.R. Tolkien’s story. And perhaps nobody was more suspicious of changes than Evangeline Lilly, the “Lost” alumna who portrayed the new character in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” in theaters next week.

“I was adamant that I wouldn’t see [‘The Lord of the Rings’] films because there was no way that anybody was going to be able to re-create what I had imagined in my mind on the screen,” the self-described Tolkien purist told Hero Complex last year.

But the efforts of screenwriters Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens to craft a character whose presence “didn’t feel jarring” and “felt like she belonged” in Middle-earth, as Boyens said, seem to have been rewarded as “Hobbit” fans have embraced the bow-and-arrow-wielding Tauriel.

Evangeline Lilly is photographed in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Oct. 17, 2013. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Evangeline Lilly is shown in Beverly Hills in October.  (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

In “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” which ends the saga, Tauriel and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) continue their efforts to assist the dwarfs and protect Middle-earth from invading orcs.

Hero Complex chatted with Lilly to talk about Tauriel’s romance with dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), filming in New Zealand, and the development of her character, whom Lilly has said is partly inspired by Tinkerbell. Be warned — spoilers lie ahead.

Hero Complex: Tauriel seems beloved by young “Hobbit” fans, especially girls.

Evangeline Lilly: That’s so wonderful. We really created the part of Tauriel in the hopes that that’s how little ones would feel, especially little girls. And even big girls, but it means a lot when little girls are excited about Tauriel.

HC: Why do you think people have embraced her so warmly, especially after some rather critical responses at the outset?

EL: I give credit for that completely to Peter, Fran and Philippa. I think they handled the creation of this character with kid gloves. They handled it with such care, with such stealth and with such respect to the fans. I think one of the biggest mistakes would have been to have suddenly made this trilogy of films about a bunch of elves, and they really didn’t do that. As a big fan of Tolkien and as a huge fan of “The Hobbit,” personally I was greatly relieved to see how little I was in the film. And usually as an actor, you’re really hoping you’ll be in the movie as much as possible, and you know, you want to see your character thrive. But as a fan, I wanted to see my character in the movies about as much as she was. I just felt like it was enough time to establish a believable, convincing, relatable and emotional character without letting her, or any of the other elves for that matter, take center stage, away from Bilbo and the dwarfs and their story. I think Peter, Phil and Fran handled that with all the characters very well. You never saw Bard too much, you never saw the elves too much, you never saw Beorn too much. We were all there to support the story of the dwarfs.

Evangeline Lilly portrays Tauriel in "The Hobbit" films. (Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly portrays Tauriel in “The Hobbit” films. (Warner Bros.)

HC: How much input did you get to have in Tauriel’s development as a character?

EL: Frankly, a lot. I was so blessed to have been given, I don’t want to say carte blanche, but they invited me into their creative hub, and we created Tauriel together. That was the best gift a filmmaker could have ever given me — the generosity of spirit it takes to allow an actor to really have a hand in creating their character, and to not keep that from them as sort of a guardian or key-keeper. It’s kind of changed my mind about acting. I had always found acting to be a frustrating profession, then all of a sudden, these incredible creative geniuses brought me into their foray, and they allowed me to be a part of a beautiful creation, a beautiful character. There was so much reward in that, that a new window was opened to acting for me where I had a great sense of professional and creative satisfaction in playing this character, and it really sort of changed my mind about my career.

HC: Is there an aspect that Tauriel would not have had if you hadn’t played her?

EL: Of course if somebody else had played her, they would have probably created something slightly different, and she would have taken on a different facade. I think that’s one of the strange mysteries of casting, is that really the director ultimately decides who all of these characters are going to be when he chooses the actor that will play them. Because whether we like it or not, we all infuse our characters with a bit of ourselves. And when Peter meets his actors for the first time, he takes very much into account who you are in deciding who you will play.

Evangeline Lilly, left, and Orlando Bloom in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly, left, and Orlando Bloom in a scene from “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” (Warner Bros.)

HC: So what part of yourself did you bring to Tauriel?

EL: I’m almost insanely passionate about justice, to a fault. To a fault. To the point where I have to talk myself off of ledges all the time because I just want to get on soapboxes and run around and yell at people and crusade and protest and change the status quo and fix things and fight for the innocent and fight for the downtrodden. That was where I related the most to this character. I feel like if I was Tauriel in Middle-earth, and my king told me, “Oh forget about it. They’re lambs to the slaughter. Leave them be,” I would have definitely balked at that also.

HC: It seems that Tauriel’s warrior side was softened a bit in the third film with the romance with Kili?

EL: Something we didn’t really tell the audience, but I knew in my own heart and mind, was that in her back story, Tauriel was orphaned when she was a young, young elf. She’s still a young elf — she’s only 600 — but at some point in her life, she was orphaned, and her parents were killed at the hands of an orc, or orcs (I’m not sure how many). And that influenced a lot of the decisions that I made for the character at the beginning of the film, and her attitude, her demeanor, her presence, her coldness, the anger that sort of seethed out of her was this need for revenge, this need for justice, this need to make things right in a world that had wronged her. And then as Kili enters her world, he opens up her heart and mind and her soul to the notion of innocence again. She sees innocence and purity in him, and she sees a spark of life that she hasn’t known since before her parents were killed, and it reminds her of the young elf that she maybe threw aside in her pain. In a weird way, it’s a coming-of-age story, and yet when we come of age, if we do it with grace, then I think in a way we return to some of the innocence that we held in childhood. In our maturing and our wisdom, we realize the infinite wisdom that children have in their idealism and in their passions. So I think it’s a beautiful arc for the character, and I was very excited to play it.

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel in “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

HC: What do you think happens to her after the events of “Five Armies”?

EL: You know, it’s going to sound very mundane, but I think she goes back to Greenwood — which would hopefully now be Greenwood; slowly but surely it would evolve out of Mirkwood and return to Greenwood — and she goes back to work. It sounds so boring, but ultimately, she has a job. She has a responsibility. She’s the head of the Elven Guard. She’s not head of the Elven army — that is Prince Legolas and King Thranduil — but she’s the head of the Elven Guard, and they protect their realm. And maybe she doesn’t go back to being head of guard, maybe she’s been softened and wouldn’t resume her old position, but in a way I feel like maybe she would be even more impassioned to protect what she loves, to protect her home, to protect what’s important to her, but maybe she’ll do it now with more compassion and a little bit of softness.

HC: At the end of the film, you share a particularly emotional scene with Lee Pace, who plays Thranduil. What was that like?

EL: Oh man, that was one of our favorite scenes to film in the whole movie. Both of us, we really looked forward to doing that scene, and at the press junket, we’ve been asked, “What was your favorite moment in the film?” and Lee actually surprised me by saying, “My favorite Thranduil moment in the film was that scene with Tauriel.” He has this intense awakening from her hurt and her anger, and she really helps shed some light on him. So we loved shooting it, and it was very rewarding to get to finally see it. I was just chomping at the bit to get a chance to see what it was like to act opposite the great and handsome Lee Pace. I think he’s incredible, and I have loved him since he was in “The Fall” so, so many years ago. I didn’t know he was the actor from “The Fall,” but “The Fall” is one of my favorite films. He was my roommate in New Zealand. I was living with my family down at the beach, and he was living in a hotel room in Wellington. He was sort of lamenting the fact that I was down at this beautiful beach home and he was in a hotel in the city, and I said, “Well, come live with me!” At this point I just knew he was the guy playing Thranduil, but I didn’t connect the dots. So he moved in with me and my family, and after he’d been living with us for about two months, somebody else came over for dinner and said, “I just have to tell you, Lee, I absolutely loved you in ‘The Fall.'” And my jaw hit the ground, because I realized that this incredible actor from one of my favorite films of all time had been my roommate the last few months, and I didn’t know it.

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Lee Pace as Thranduil in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Lee Pace as Thranduil in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” (Warner Bros.)

HC: Leaving “The Hobbit,” is there a particular memory you’ll take from your experience there?

EL: Oh man, there are many. Many, many, many, many, many. And it’s very hard to choose amongst them which one maybe encapsulates the experience. But there was this one day, this crazy day — we lived in a home that was right on the beach, and my partner [Norman Kali] is an avid fisherman, and so he spent 90% of his time when I was on set fishing. He would fish on the shore, mostly — that’s very common in New Zealand. And there was this one day when I had just finished this tiny bit of work — which very rarely happened; usually the workdays on the film set were very long — and I came home from stunt training, and the sun was glorious. It was shining bright for the first time in forever, there was no wind, which is unheard of; it is always windy in Wellington. And it was this beautiful balmy, sort of autumny day. And for some reason, the kahawai, which is a very popular fish in New Zealand to fish, were running, and they were running just about 10 feet off shore, right in front of our house. And my partner was there with his shirt off, with Luke Evans and our son, and there was this crowd of people who had gathered on the beach because they were watching them literally yank fish after fish after fish after fish out of the ocean from the shore, as if it was manna falling from heaven. It was literally probably a fish every minute, every 60 seconds a fish would come out of the sea. It was very biblical in proportion. It was so incredible. Luke had never even fished in his life before, my partner was teaching him to fish that day, so his very first try at fishing, he probably yanked in five or six fish in about half an hour. It was really magical. It felt like we had experienced something like a natural phenomenon, and of course in New Zealand, everything is so natural. They haven’t given over to corporatism, they haven’t given over to materialism. Their priorities are so in place. They care about family, friends, mother nature, their home, their islands, their nation, and I just sort of feel like it encapsulated the feeling of peace and connection to earth and connection to family and beauty and love and laughter and light and all the things that represented our time in New Zealand working on this film.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Comments


2 Responses to Evangeline Lilly on ‘The Hobbit’: It ‘changed my mind about acting’

  1. Stacy Goldmine says:

    This is why I 1. LOVE Evangeline Lilly and 2. LOVE living and coming from New Zealand! I've never heard a more beautiful description about NZ by a celebrity like that before!

  2. shajadh says:

    please continue the series.

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