Evangeline Lilly goes from Lost’ to Hobbit’
Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly first came to the attention of American audiences with her portrayal of Kate Austen, the woman with a criminal past who found herself in a love triangle on the hit series “Lost.” During that show’s run, she took time to do a brief but memorable performance as the wife of Jeremy Renner’s character in “The Hurt Locker,” then later grabbed the tough and feisty female lead part opposite Hugh Jackman in the film “Real Steel.” Lilly, 34, is currently getting ready to become the object of attention/desire by J.R.R. Tolkien fans around the world with her role as the dagger-stabbing, arrow-shooting Elf Tauriel in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” She recently spoke about the film and her character in Los Angeles.
What was your reaction when you first saw yourself onscreen with red hair and elf ears?
It was a double-edged sword because I’m a real Tolkien geek, and I dreamed about being an Elf since I was a little girl. So there was an incredible amount of satisfaction and dream realization when I first saw myself as an Elf. But unfortunately, I’m also an actor, which means that I’m very self critical, and it’s very hard to give anything I do a stamp of approval without noticing what went wrong and what didn’t work.
You had been talking about retiring from acting for a while before you took this part. What made you change your mind?
I had retired into what I thought would be a life of quiet motherhood and writing [Her first children’s book, “The Squickerwonkers,” was published earlier this year; her son Kahekili is 2]. It had been at least five years since I had taken a meeting or engaged in a new acting project. I was sort of off the grid. I was so far off the grid that when Pete [was] trying to get a hold of me for this role, [he] couldn’t reach me. Somebody on the film’s production team coincidentally used to work with my partner. So he got a text message one day saying, “Peter Jackson is trying to reach Evangeline. Do you think she might be able to pick up the phone?” So he did eventually find me, and because “The Hobbit” was my favorite book as a little girl, and the Silvan Elves were my favorite characters in the book, and it would be a dream come true to play one, I jumped at the opportunity.
Your character Tauriel is a warrior, and is quite good with a bow and arrow. Did you learn archery for the part?
I went through five different types of training: weapons training, stunt training, movement training, dialect training, and language training. During the weapons training, I worked with double daggers and a bow and arrow. I actually used to teach archery at a kids’ camp when I was a teenager, but I’m not a good marksman (laughs). I think one of the great gifts of CGI and working in the imagination is that you can imagine you’re much more talented than you really are. And if you can do that, then it can appear as so, with Peter Jackson’s magic CGI brush.
Being such a fan yourself, and knowing there are so many purist fans out there, did it bother you that your character isn’t in any of the books, that she was invented for this movie?
When they told me that I did take great pause. I kind of gulped and went, “What?” But it didn’t take long for them to completely convince me that it was a good idea and it was the right thing to do. Tolkien was writing in 1937, and to his defense, the world is a different place today. I’ve been repeatedly telling people that in this day and age, for young girls to go and watch nine hours of movie entertainment and not have one [major] female character, is subliminally telling them you don’t count, you’re not important, and you’re not pivotal to the story. So I think these filmmakers were very brave and very right in saying we won’t do that to the young female audience who come and watch our film. And not just the young viewers, but also women of my age. I think it’s time that we stop making stories that are only about men, especially only about heroic men. And I love that [the fans] tell me I’m a hero.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.