‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug': Philippa Boyens talks Tauriel

Dec. 11, 2013 | 4:09 p.m.
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Martin Freeman as Bilbo, from left, Jed Brophy as Nori and Richard Armitage as Thorin in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (James Fisher / Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin, left, and Dean O'Gorman as Fili in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Graham McTavish as Dwalin, left, Ken Stott as Balin, Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Richard Armitage as Thorin and William Kircher as Bifur in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman, left, and John Callen in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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

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William Kircher as Bifur, left, John Callen as Oin, Richard Armitage as Thorin and Ken Stott as Balin in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, left, and Ryan Gage as Alfrid in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid, Mary Nesbitt as Tilda and John Bell as Bain in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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

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

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

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

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Orlando Bloom as Legolas in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Lee Pace as Thranduil in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Luke Evans as Bard in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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

When it came time to craft “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second installment in their latest trilogy of movies based on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, filmmaker Peter Jackson and his screenwriting partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens had a decision to make. The story, as they saw it, was crying out for a dynamic female character. So, they invented one.

With the film arriving in theaters Friday, audiences soon will have the opportunity to meet Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, the first character entirely crafted by Jackson and his creative counterparts for the screen. She’s a fierce warrior, the captain of the guard in the forest of Mirkwood, and she’s apt to be controversial, merely because she represents perhaps the greatest digression yet from Tolkien’s classic texts.

Hero Complex caught up with Boyens to discuss Tauriel in greater detail, and to ask about the presence of some other characters joining the “Hobbit” franchise in its second act, including Orlando Bloom’s “Lord of the Rings” favorite, Legolas Greenleaf, and Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman.

Hero Complex: Tauriel is a character not from the Tolkien universe – what prompted her creation?

Philippa Boyens: To be honest, the very first motivation was that there were no female characters in the book at all really… You really feel the weight of that. We knew that you would especially feel the weight of it in terms of a movie. We wanted to find a way to introduce a female character in a meaningful way that had a role to play that felt truthful to the world. This character came into being when we were sitting down literally trying to structure the film and talk about how we thought we’d tell the tale. Once we said, “OK, we’re going to do this,” we needed to think about, “Well, is it a woman of Lake-town? Is it a female Hobbit?” What we found was one of the pieces of the storytelling that felt like it could hold this was the story of the Elves, mainly because they’re kind of mysterious.

The Woodland Elves in this are different to the other Elves we’ve met. They’re not like the Elves of Rivendell. They’re not like the Elves of Lothlorien. Once we took a deep breath and said, “We’re going to do this,” we wanted to make sure that it didn’t feel jarring, that the character felt like she belonged there. Then we had to find the actress to play her. It’s very hard to find Elves, I’ll be honest with you. They’re supposed to be these gloriously beautiful creatures, but then you also have a world that’s already been established with people like Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving. There’s a stillness about them, a watchfulness about them, an etherealness about them. They’ve got to be graceful, but we also knew that we wanted this particular character to be a Silvan elf – there’s a difference between Silvan Elves of the woods and what Tolkien refers to as the High Elves, which is someone like Galadriel. She’s a little bit more earthy. We found Evangeline, thank God.

HC: What made Evangeline the right person to play the character?

PB: We wanted all of those things, the stillness, the grace, but we wanted someone who could be different to, say, Liv Tyler, who played Arwen so beautifully. Tolkien describes them – and this is the perfect way to really think about this particular character – he describes them as less wise and more dangerous than the other Elves of Middle-earth. Less wise does not mean more stupid, it means, I think, more reckless. Also they’re isolationists. They don’t go about the world very much. In fact, for all that she’s this incredible fighter and she’s very experienced — she’s old in terms of human years — she’s actually seen very little out of the outside world.

HC: She has an interesting relationship with Legolas, who of course doesn’t appear in Tolkien’s novel either. Why include him here?

PHOTOS: Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom at ‘Smaug’ premiere

PB: Legolas coming into it was again a natural, as natural as being able to draw upon and bring Galadriel into the storytelling. I think the fans would have killed us if we hadn’t shown him. You can’t enter the woodland realm and not show Legolas Greenleaf. He isn’t in the book but very much this is his country, this is his part of the world, this is part of what was happening before we meet him in “Lord of the Rings.” We did want to tell a little bit of that story. When you meet him in “Lord of the Rings,” he has this immediate antagonism toward Gimli the Dwarf. Dwarfs and Elves dislike each other intensely and we wanted to tell a little bit about how that happened. It goes way back, it’s an ancient feud so to speak. But in terms of his personal dislike, we wanted to tell a little bit about that so when we get to “The Lord of the Rings,” you understand what’s going on there. It’s not a petty dislike. That unfolds more in the third film. In doing that and having this female character, we did think about a love story for Legolas, but hopefully — and this is trying not to give too much away — it became less important than the greater story of the Elves. There’s a story going on between the Elves, it involves the Dwarfs. It ends in war, the Battle of the Five Armies — all of those feed into the same narrative that is personal to these characters but also is the backdrop of these characters.

HC: We’re seeing other new characters, too. Lee Pace as Thranduil and Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman both enter the story, and, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch is the Necromancer and Smaug. Was that one of the most intriguing aspects of writing the script for this installment, interweaving these new characters into the narrative?

PB: It was a great gift because that’s exactly what you want at this point in the storytelling, you want that infusion. You’ve fallen in love hopefully with the characters of the company of Thorin Oakenshield, you’ve got your wizards and Dwarfs and they’re working really well and that’s exactly what you need now is those new characters to come into the story. We get to the world of Men finally. It’s weird, but you realize we haven’t been there yet. The dragon, it’s all about the dragon in some ways. It’s “The Desolation of Smaug.” I can understand that for a lot of fans, they just need to get there. Let’s see this dragon.

Phillipa Boyens, one of the writers of Peter Jackson's new J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and a longtime collaborator with Jackson and his creative and life partner Fran Walsh. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Philippa Boyens. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

HC: Benedict has the best dragon voice imaginable.

PB: I think he’s got one of the best voices ever anyway. He’s also the Necromancer so he does two voices and it’s quite extraordinary because they’re very different. The Elves are going to give him a really good run for their money and so are the people of Lake-town. Luke Evans’ Bard is awesome, all of those things add new elements, but also the strength of the core cast is still there and it’s still driving the film. Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf are still the people you care about, they’re the ones that are driving this film. It feels good. It’s a hard story to set up. Hopefully this is a payoff.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


9 Responses to ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug': Philippa Boyens talks Tauriel

  1. David Richardson says:

    I understand 27 animals died while engaged in the making of this film. I am surprised people will still endorse and support the film. In what moral universe is couple of hours of light entertainment worth the sacrifice of 27 animals?

    • Matthew the Wayfarer says:

      If that were so we would have heard about it. What are you a PETA Propagandist? Considering there are very few animals in the story, seems very unlikely.

    • hclin says:

      http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/19/27-animals-di

      Yes it's a shame that these accidents happen, but this happens all the time on farms. They were all accidents. Horses especially are very accident prone. Do you know how hard it is to make a fenced pasture "perfectly horse-proof"? I swear they cut their legs on air. Yes the farm probably was dangerous, but it seems like they acknowledged that and found a different environment for them. I don't think this is a good reason to boycott the film.

    • Scottlac says:

      I have it on goo authority that they will kill an endangered dragon in the next film. I mean, how many dragons are left these days? And they are going to kill one ON SCREEN! shameful.

    • Diamond Rose says:

      How is this possible? There are a few pigs in this movie but nothing else, unless you count Smaug.

  2. J Evans says:

    Why couldn’t you just stick to the book?

  3. Ashley says:

    I'm sorry, but everything I have read of Tauriel does NOT read as "dynamic." She sounds like a stock Mary Sue self-insert that was plucked from the pages of a teenager's LOTR fanfic.

  4. Tolkien Fan says:

    Both of these comments are ridiculous. Decent but short interview. Looking forward to the film.

  5. The Raisin Girl says:

    They did such a good job on making Tauriel true to the world that I, not having gone so far in my Tolkien obsession (yet) as to have read all of the appendices, notes, histories of Middle Earth…I at first thought they had simply pulled in another of Tolkien's less well-known elf characters and fleshed her out a bit for this story. All of the interviews I've watched and read made it clear that a lot of real thought and care went into the creation of this character, not just on the part of the writers but also on the part of the actress. Tauriel is neither Mary Sue, nor is she relegated to a role as a one-dimensional love interest. She is a direct contrast to the isolationist stance taken by Thranduil with regard to the evil plaguing Middle Earth, and her character has given an opportunity to show the elves and elven culture's flaws. They are no longer beautiful, infallible statues, any more than the dwarves are the greedy one-dimensional names on a page that they were originally written as.

    Yes, they've made changes to the text, but the spirit of Tolkien's world not only remains intact, but is in fact enriched by these changes. The Hobbit was a simple children's story without a lot of depth to it that would make a dreadful film if literally transcribed the way some people seem to want. Film and text are different mediums that call for different things, and Tolkien himself was a perpetual editor of his own work. Some things to think about before getting on a high-horse about sticking to the book.

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