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

Dec. 11, 2013 | 4:09 p.m.

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.)

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

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

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

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.)

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

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

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

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

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.)

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

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.)

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

Azog, portrayed by Manu Bennett through motion-capture technology, 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.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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