Evangeline Lilly was supposed to be retired. After the success of Lost, Lilly sought to engage in a quieter life of raising her young child while focusing on her writing career. But, as a longtime J.R.R. Tolkien fan, there was no saying “no” when Peter Jackson called and asked her to appear in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. “What's so strange about retiring at 30?” Lilly asked Movie Fanatic and laughed. "I had retired into what I thought would be a life of quiet motherhood and writing, and didn't really plan on taking any more acting gigs."
The Hobbit was her favorite book as a little girl and Silvan Elves were her favorite characters. It was an elf that Jackson sought Lilly out to play... how could she even consider not heading to New Zealand and embarking on her own Middle Earth quest?
“It would be a dream come true. I jumped at the opportunity,” Lilly said. Then, she got a surprise. “Then they said, ‘Your character's not in the book.’ And I took great pause, as a great fan of Tolkien. I kind of gulped and went, ‘What? Everyone's going to hate me!’”
But it didn't take long for Jackson to convince her that it was the right thing to do and even more so, it was a good idea to have Lilly play Tauriel. “In his defense, Tolkien was writing in 1937. The world is a different place today, and I keep repeatedly telling people that in this day and age, to put nine hours of cinema entertainment in theaters for young girls to go and watch, and not have one female character for them to watch is subliminally telling them, ‘you don’t count,’” Lilly admitted.
“You’re not important, and you’re not pivotal to story. And I just think they were very brave and very bright in saying, we won’t do that to the young female audience who come and watch our film. And not just the young female audience, but even a woman of my own age, I think it’s time we stop making stories that are only about men – especially only about heroic men. And I love that they made Tauriel a hero.”
When it came to get ready to play a bow-and-arrow-wielding warrior seen in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer, Lilly trained hard, but already had a solid foundation. “Believe it or not, I used to teach archery to little kids at a camp when I was a teenager,” Lilly said.
But, there is much more to getting physically ready than firing arrows at Orcs. “I went through five different types of training. I did weapons training, stunt training, movement training, dialect training, language training. And in the weapons training, there were two different weapons. I had double daggers and a bow and arrow!”
Given her lifelong affinity for all things Tolkien and Elven, we wondered what her reaction was when she first saw herself on screen in the Middle Earth world. “It was a double-edged sword because I’m a real Tolkien geek, and I had 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 got to see myself as an elf,” Lilly said.
“But I’m also, unfortunately, an actor, which means that I’m very self-critical. It’s very hard for me to ever give anything I do a stamp of approval without having the appendices that says all the things I did wrong and what didn’t work. Just the ears, the wig and the actual visual was very, very exciting.”