‘Hobbit’: Tolkien purist Evangeline Lilly talks new elf Tauriel

Nov. 01, 2013 | 11:15 a.m.
hobbit 3 Hobbit: Tolkien purist Evangeline Lilly talks new elf Tauriel

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

hobbit2 bilbo2 Hobbit: Tolkien purist Evangeline Lilly talks new elf Tauriel

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

hobbit2 orc Hobbit: Tolkien purist Evangeline Lilly talks new elf Tauriel

Azog, portrayed by Manu Bennett through motion-capture technology, in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

It wasn’t so long ago that Evangeline Lilly was one of those strident J.R.R. Tolkien fans worried that Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations wouldn’t capture the poetic soul of the fantasy she so loved as a child growing up in Canada.

“I was a bit of a Tolkien purist before Peter Jackson made the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy,” the actress said recently. “I was adamant that I wouldn’t see those 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. I ended up being dragged to it for a big family Christmas thing and couldn’t believe how accurately he had portrayed everything that I’d ever imagined.”

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

Evangeline Lilly was surprised how accurately Peter Jackson captured J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Now Lilly is hoping that fans will be just as pleasantly surprised by her Woodland elf Tauriel, who makes her debut as the first Middle-earth character not invented by Tolkien in Warner Bros.’ Dec. 13 release, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

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The second installment in the planned three-part adaptation of the landmark 1937 children’s novel, “The Desolation of Smaug” sees good-natured hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continue his journey toward the Lonely Mountain to assist a company of dwarfs in their quest to reclaim their lost treasure, which was stolen by the sinister dragon Smaug.

The group encounters the creatures of the dark forest Mirkwood, where Lilly’s Tauriel resides, and eventually, the great lizard himself, who speaks with a silver-dagger baritone furnished by Benedict Cumberbatch.

“I had to learn how to spin my knives and make the knife work look fancy, and obviously how to use a bow and arrow,” Lilly said. “The good thing with the bow and arrow is that I never actually had to use an arrow. I used a bow and an imaginary arrow and they CGI in the arrows afterward so I look like a badass.”

The character grew out of the desire to introduce more female energy into the story — “The Hobbit” has no female characters to speak of — according to Philippa Boyens, who wrote “The Hobbit” scripts with Jackson and Fran Walsh (Guillermo del Toro, who was once set to direct the movies, also has a writing credit).

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, left, 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.)

But she said the writers were careful to cast Tauriel in such a way that she would feel like a natural extension of Tolkien’s world.

“We’re not trying to create a warrior princess or a character that you might find for example — and in saying this, I’m not denigrating them — in a video game,” Boyens said. “This wasn’t about creating a character that didn’t feel truthful. She’s an elf of the world of Middle-earth.”

Evangeline Lilly, right, and Josh Holloway in "Lost." (Mario Perez / ABC)

Evangeline Lilly and Josh Holloway in “Lost.” (Mario Perez / ABC)

Best known for her work as the tough but sensitive Kate Austen on the metaphysically twisty ABC series “Lost,” Lilly said she had been toying with the idea of early retirement when she received the call from Walsh and Boyens to gauge her interest in portraying the captain of guards in the Elven kingdom of Mirkwood.

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“I was laid up in bed having just given birth to my first child and I was actually still not mobile,” said Lilly, 34. “They offered me the role and I couldn’t say no.”

With her fiery auburn hair and reckless spirit, Tauriel is unique among the Elves that Jackson previously has brought to the screen. She doesn’t have the same royal lineage as Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel or Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, and she displays more vulnerability than is customary for the higher beings.

And that gave Lilly a chance to put her own stamp on the species.

“She had to be a bit more gritty, a bit more passionate than what you’d seen before,” the actress said. “It was actually great to have that little bit of freedom to play with her and not have my performance from beginning to end be stoic and ethereal.”

— Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


33 Responses to ‘Hobbit’: Tolkien purist Evangeline Lilly talks new elf Tauriel

  1. mcbrion says:

    "Female energy"?
    This is simply a marketing tactic so that women will feel included. It's fine when it's legitimate, but this is about as real to me as seeing Black people as Romulans (in Star Trek). And I'm Black. I can live with realistic portrayals, but sometimes, it's a way of saying, "See? We didn't forget about "you."
    As a Tolkien reader from around 1968, I'm pleased for the actress herself: this will help her career, and I'm glad for that. But just adding someone to be politically correct? That's lame.

  2. John says:

    Actually Azog wasn't in the book either.

  3. tolkien lover says:

    Coming from a devout Tolkien fan, I am the first to admit that Tolkien's grasp of women was limited. Eowyn was actually his daughter's idea. Galadriel even has a low voice. That said, the Tauriel as described here is not a natural outgrowth of Tolkien's world. An interesting female character could have been Dis, the only female dwarf Tolkien refers to, mother of Fili and Kili and sister of Thorin. Oh, and Azog is mentioned in the Hobbit.

  4. Maka says:

    Since the role of Tauriel was produced it would have been nice to see a few other Elven women in the role of warrior among the ranks to support the idea women also had a place among the men in a military role for their realm. I didn't notice any.

    I look to the films as Peter Jackson's vision of the stories Tolkien wrote. My vision differs but this still does not effect my enjoyment of the movies.

  5. smaug says:

    tbqh you're all 100% entitled to your opinions but if you don't like Tauriel or Tauriel/Kili i'm going to need you to stay at least 9765486543 feet away from me

  6. Shay says:

    FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

  7. Deb says:

    The healing scene by Tauriel…I cannot be the only one that laughed because of the pg porn qualities!

  8. wisentime says:

    As a matter of fact Tolkien was married and had a son and respected women very much. His son compiled a book of his notes that were left out of his final printed editions. He made Eowyn the slayer of the Nazgul King and Arwen saved Frodo. Galadriel a very superior Elvan woman of magic was married to Celeborn and had a daughter who later married Elron and they had Arwen. As Eowyn states in Return of the King The royal women of Rohan go out to war with the men and keep swords to kill themselves and their children if their men should fail. Rather die than be brutalized by the Orcs. Tolkien lived the world of his Hobbit and Trilogy and had many other ideas about the history of the Elves and Valor who preceeded the Elves that we know of in the Ring trilogy. There were many ancestors etc. Men and Elves and many histories of fighting the Dark Shadow who was not originally Sauron. Sauron came to power afterward and played nice till his time came to reveal his true nature.
    In the End I think the character of Tauriel is a great addition to the story line. We all like to add to classics and think of endings for stories when left hanging. I'm really appalled at the lack of understanding of Tolkien's masterpiece classic.

  9. wisentime says:

    As a matter of fact Tolkien was married and had a son and respected women very much. His son compiled a book of his notes that were left out of his final printed editions. He made Eowyn the slayer of the Nazgul King and Arwen saved Frodo. Galadriel a very superior Elvan woman of magic was married to Celeborn and had a daughter who later married Elron and they had Arwen. As Eowyn states in Return of the King The royal women of Rohan go out to war with the men and keep swords to kill themselves and their children if their men should fail. Rather die than be brutalized by the Orcs. Tolkien lived the world of his Hobbit and Trilogy and had many other ideas about the history of the Elves and Valor who preceeded the Elves that we know of in the Ring trilogy. There were many ancestors etc. Men and Elves and many histories of fighting the Dark Shadow who was not originally Sauron. Sauron came to power afterward and played nice till his time came to reveal his true nature.
    In the End I think the character of Tauriel is a great addition to the story line. We all like to add to classics and think of endings for stories when left hanging.

  10. Jay says:

    Where it is true that Elves and Dwarfs generally do not mix, Leogalas and Gimli do in LOTR, and afterwards, build a lifelong freindship. If that friendship can build with a Sindar elf, who is to say what can happen with a Silvan elf? Because of Legolas's potential feelings for Tauriel, depending on how the relationship between Kili and Tauriel matures, it may open the door for that later relationship with Gimli.

    I don't know how they will play out the ending, but another item to note is that Kili is not one of Tolkien's survivors of the battle of the five armies. Considering the very significant departures from the books, I don't know that this fact matters :)

  11. Adam says:

    Tauriel was not needed and I think this Love Triangle idea is just awful. Jackson said he needed a girl, but that sounds more sexist than Tolkien simply not including a female character. It's almost as if Peter Jackson thinks he's going to get millions of 12-14 year old boys running to the theater to see Tauriel cleavage or something. I'm sorry, but maybe women came to the theater to see Vigo and Orlando, but men aren't going to do that….especially for a Hobbit movie.

  12. Beth says:

    I always thought that part of what made Eowyn such a powerful character in LOTR was precisely the lack of women in the Hobbit: it gives the impression of a medieval, male dominated world, at least where war and adventuring were concerned.

    Now it is true that Tolkien described the elves as more egalitarian than the other races. Their genders were more similar in height, strength and occupation, and of course Galadriel was ruler of their most powerful kingdom. But he doesn't describe the female elves as involved in violence except for self defense. I enjoyed Tauriel's character when I watched the film, but female elf warrior just doesn't ring true to middle earth in my ears.

  13. Aaron says:

    This pairing between Tauriel and Kili doesn't even make any sense. Men and Elves were created by Illuvatar, god of gods, so they can actually couple and marry, albeit rarely. Dwarves were created by Aule the Smith god, and are not physically capable of reproducing with elves, let alone being attracted to them. Elves and Dwarves are not physically capable of finding the other race appealing, there is no way this pairing would have ever worked.

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