When Evangeline Lilly was asked to play an elf in The Desolation of Smaug, she was ecstatic. However, when she was told that the character was not in any of the books, she stopped in her tracks. Maybe this wasn’t really a good idea; it wasn’t Lord of the Rings canon. However, director Peter Jackson pointed out to her that there weren’t any female characters in The Hobbit, so she reconsidered. She felt that the idea of the absence of women in The Hobbit needed to be addressed in the 21st century. Her belief was that the lack of female characters in any particular fiction gave the impression that women didn’t matter in the process of life.
Before Lilly actually had the sit-down with Peter Jackson, she was in semi-retirement, raising her son, Kahekili, and writing her first children’s book, The Squickerwonkers, which was published early this year. Having literally dropped off the Hollywood grid, Lilly had not had a meet or sought out an acting job in quite a while.
She was so far off the grid, Jackson initially couldn’t reach her. Finally, through a member of the production team who knew Lilly’s partner, she finally got a text requesting that she pick up the phone. Being a J.R.R. Tolkien fan as a little girl, she jumped at the chance to play a major part in a Hobbit film.
Lilly did have brief forays into the movie industry, one playing the wife of Jeremy Renner’s character in The Hurt Locker, then again across from Hugh Jackman in Real Steel. Lilly’s character, Tauriel, in The Desolation of Smaug, was cut wholly from the cloth of the writers’ imagination. The elf archer was created by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Fran Walsh for the express purpose of adding a female character where otherwise there would have been none.
To prepare for the role as an elf archer every bit as tough and agile as Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, Lilly received five different types of training: archery, movement, knife fighting, language and stunt training. Anything that wasn’t computer-generated imagery was Lilly doing her own stunts and “having incredible fun” while doing them. She also believes she brings a softness to the film. Surrounded by men motivated by greed, revenge and land, her motivations are of the heart.
However, Lilly has one huge problem with The Desolation of Smaug: the added love triangle. When she decided to take the role she had one stipulation: no love triangles. She had suffered that situation as Kate Austen, the woman with a criminal past, in the television series Lost. As in Lost, she had a choice between a blonde and a brunette. Legolas was the obvious blonde, and Kili (played by Aidan Turner) was the brunette.
Principal shooting was completed in 2011, but when the cast and crew returned for re-shoots in 2012, the writers approached Lilly with some “scene changes.” Sure enough, to Lilly’s prediction, they were the introduction of a love triangle. Lilly cringed, having to choose between elf and dwarf, but she was already committed and couldn’t back out. How that turned out remains to be seen.
By Lee Birdine