J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit doesn't mention many Elven characters by name, so for The Desolation of Smaug's journey to the land of the Wood Elves, Peter Jackson brought back Orlando Bloom's Legolas and created a female Wood Elf, Evangeline Lilly's Tauriel. We spoke to both actors about their characters and how they fit into this particular chapter of Middle Earth.
Last year, along with other members of the entertainment press, we were invited to the set of The Hobbit, where we participated in roundtable interviews with both Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom.
First we spoke to Lilly, who talked about her anxiety over playing an invented character, and what makes Tauriel different from the other female Elves we've seen in Peter Jackson's Tolkien films:
You're playing a character that's not in the book, so I'm curious if you could just talk a bit about your perception of her and her character.
Lilly: It would be my pleasure. Because of course, that is the greatest source of my anxiety on this film, is that I'm going to be lynched. I was a die-hard fan of these books before the films ever came out. And when I say die-hard, I wasn't the person who could speak Elvish, but I really loved them. And I wasn't actually going to see the original films, because I didn't think it was possible that a film could represent the books appropriately. So I was protesting, and I wasn't going to see them. And then my family all took a jaunt together, the entire family, to see the movies, and were like, "What, you're just going to stay home?"
So I saw the movies and was thoroughly impressed that Peter Jackson managed to make my vision of the book come to life, as well as my sister's and my father's, and my aunt's and my uncle's, everyone's. It seemed to somehow pan across everyone's vision, even though we all knew we had to have had different visions of the books.
So when I got called and was told, "We'd like you to do The Hobbit", which was my favorite of all of them when I was a kid — "And we want you to play a character that's not in the books", I gulped and hesitated, but then I went, "These guys know this world, and they represent this world so well, that I actually think they've earned the right to have a little play." And I think that for this character in particular, she becomes sort of the embodiment and representation of the Wood Elves, which Tolkien talks about at length in all of his books. And in this book in particular, he just doesn't introduce you to any of them. Well, you can't have a movie with a group of people that are significant players in the story, that push forward the plot, without introducing at least one or two of them. You have to meet them. So I think that they just recognized that. And they could have made it a male Elf, but we have Legolas, and nobody needs to have to compete with that. So I think doing a female Elf in the Woodland realm was a bit safer, because we haven't met one of those yet.
And also, I think this book is really, really alpha, it's very male-driven. It's all male characters, and they ended up — In the book, there's not one female character. And if you watch a film from beginning to end, with no women in it, it's really difficult. I don't know if any of you feel this way, but it's like eventually, you see a woman come on screen and you go, "Oh, thank God!" You just sort of need a break from all this testosterone, which happened, I think, in one of my films, The Hurt Locker. I was in it for like five minutes, and people were like, "You were in that movie!" And I was like, "Well, kind of." And they were like, "No, you were!" 'Cause they needed a woman!
How is Tauriel different from the Elves we've seen in the previous movies?
Lilly: My character is different from all of the Elves you've met before, in that she's really young. And I keep telling journalists this because I've really focused on that in my performance. I'm trying to distinguish her from all of these incredibly sage and wise Elves that have lived for thousands of years. She's only 600 years old, she's just a baby. So she's a bit more impulsive, and she's a bit more immature. I think she's more easily romanticized by a lot of things.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character's look and costumes?
Lilly: Yeah, I love my character's look. One of the great pleasures of working in Middle Earth is you get to be another being. Most of us are not playing human beings. So I have these — I got sat down when I first arrived, to try on my ears, to decide what my ears would be. And I was presented with three beautiful sets of ears, and they said, "Well, we've got the small, the medium, and the large. Which one would you like to wear?" And right away, they went, "Probably not the large." And they sort of shuffled them aside, and went, "But we think the small and the medium would look great on you." So we tried them on, and I was like, "Yeah, they're kind of okay. Can I just try the large?" So we tried the large, and I was like, "That's it!" I love them, they're huge! I have these huge, pointed ears. They’re like three times the size of Orlando Bloom's ears. And I think he has ear envy. I love my ears.
And how I can get away with that is I have this wig that's down to my knees. It's a massive head of hair, and it's almost shocking red. It's sort of auburn red, but it's a red wig. And so, my hair is kind of big and it's very noticeable. And I have what we joke around with on set, we call it my 'IHS', which is my Iconic Hair Shape, and it's this big, beautiful, lustrous curl that runs down my back. So I could get away with having really big ears, because there was nothing that was going to distract you from the hair.
And then otherwise, because I'm a warrior, because I'm not a princess, as with most — well, both of the female Elves we've met in Middle Earth up to now — I don't wear all of the glorious gowns that they wear. I don't have all the layers and the chiffon and the silks—I'm in very practical, military clothing. I'm the head of the Elven Guard, so I spend most of my time in the movie slaughtering Orcs and Goblins, which is great fun. Although, hair down to your knees can get a bit troublesome when you're flying around killing Orcs and Goblins. So yeah, I wear the military garb of the Woodland Elves.
You mentioned flying and jumping — do you do a lot of wirework?
Lilly: No. And it just pisses me off, because my character is, so they get my stunt double to do all the wirework up to now. And every time, I go, "Please, can you just train me on a wire?" Because I've spent six years on a show that we did a lot of stunts in, and I did all my own stunts, everything. And I'm really not used to being treated like "a star." On that show, we were just hired help. We were not treated that way. They're like, "You're precious. We can't bump you, or bruise you, because there's only one of you, and there's like a thousand stunt doubles." And I go, "Well, but I'm Tauriel. Shouldn't I do it? I want to do it." So it's this back and forth and we fight about it all the time. Not fight, but I beg for it.
So does your character mostly engage in swordplay, or is there archery, too?
Lilly: I do archery, but for the most part, I have two daggers, and I wield my daggers, and they're effective.
How much training did you have to do for that?
Lilly: I had to do quite a bit of training, and generally, I find stunts a lot of fun, and I don't struggle too much with them, 'cause I'm a really physical person. But once you put an actual skill into it — like now I have to be able to spin knives and shit, while I'm in the middle of a fight, and I find that incredibly difficult. Because it is not instinctive, and I always have just led by instinct in anything physical, and sort of just got by on the skill. Like when I was a soccer player, I was really gritty, and I could take girls twice my size down, and that was great, but dribble the ball? Eh. So it's a struggle being an Elf who has really got all this flourish and is extremely elegant.
So you had to learn Elvish for this role?
So is there an Elvish equivalent to, "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains"?
Lilly: No, there's no — there is for me, because anything that I've said so far becomes that for me. 'Cause I've just memorized my lines. I haven't sat down and memorized the language of Elvish, and anyone who does that is crazy!
So you and Orlando Bloom can't have banter?
Lilly: No! We can barely get our lines out. Both of us will get up to the Elvish line, and you can see us go And then we'll say it, and then we'll be like, "Phew!" And then we go on with the English.
So do you know if your character was the creation of Guillermo [del Toro], or was it from Fran [Walsh] and Peter [Jackson] and Philippa [Boyens]?
Lilly: It was from Fran and Peter and Philippa. As you probably can assume, they've read everything: The Silmarillion, and all the extra that Tolkien wrote about the world and the land. And I think they have just absorbed so much of it, that they have taken elements of different female Elven characters throughout Tolkien's work, and they have amalgamated those things into one character, which is Tauriel.
Next, we spoke with Orlando Bloom, who talked about his return to Middle Earth and the different side of Legolas we'll be seeing in Mirkwood:
What was your reaction to stepping back into this world the first day?
Bloom: It was sheer joy. It was also a little bit of, "Oh, my word." This is 10 years later, I'm 10 years older and how's this all going to work? I quite literally was like, "Can I just try on my old costume just for posterity of it all?" It was amazing that Pete was back at the helm of this movie, and it was amazing that I got a call to say we would love you to be a part of the film. I was just full of excitement. I was obviously like, "Ooh! This is going to be interesting to make the transition as an Elf being ten years older as myself, as an actor, going in to playing a character that would be younger, but as Elves are kind of ageless anyway we've managed to bridge the gap.
Is there much difference between Legolas in The Hobbit, versus Legolas in Lord Of The Rings? In terms of his personality and development.
Bloom: No. Not masses. Essentially the Woodland Realm Elves, which is where Legolas is from, and my father being Thranduil, the king of those Elves, are a particular type of Elf as described by Tolkien to be... I'm not going to quote him correctly, but they are different from the Lothlorien and the Rivendell elves. They're more militant if you like. Legolas in Lord of the Rings was sent as a bridge from his people into the world of dwarves and humans and wizards and everything else.
This is an introduction into the Woodland Realm Elves. Obviously we meet my father, Thranduil, who is a very powerful and strong character who is very particular in his vision of who the Elves are, who the Woodland Elves are, specifically. They are kind of, like I said, a militant group, the Woodland Realm Elves. So I think that the opportunity that Pete and Philippa and Fran and the writers and Pete saw was to create — I think there was a desire for Legolas to come back. They felt that the fans would appreciate seeing Legolas in the Woodland Realm, and there was an opportunity to create a father-son, a prince versus king dynamic that would be interesting and serve the story.
Knowing how successful The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was, and also the fact that Legolas isn't actually in The Hobbit, and you mentioned the excitement, but was there ever any hesitation on your part about taking a role in this film?
Bloom: Not after I had spoken to Peter. Their ideas, which I have explained, were made to clear to me about how it could be made seamless and effective. Not after I'd had that conversation. It was definitely something that anyone would think. There's a big love for these books and these films and these stories. I think in the hands of Peter, the fans, I would hope, would feel rest assured that he will deliver a movie that will both entertain and enjoy and will be in keeping with Tolkien's vision of the stories. They never stray at all from Tolkien's vision of what the world is, and for me it was exciting to think of returning to Middle Earth and to be a part of something. This is Pete in his element, doing what he does best. So it was just very exciting.
Because we know that Legolas and Gimli form this bond in Lord Of The Rings, does your dislike of dwarves in this, is it backwards acting to strengthen that bond by seeing how different he is?
Bloom: Yes. This is a precursor and certainly you will understand where the rift has come from. Absolutely.
You have, in Lord of the Rings movies, some "holy shit" moments. I'm curious if you have any "holy shit" moments in this movie.
Bloom: Yes. One of the great things about the character is the "holy shit" moments, so I would hope that the audience will certainly appreciate a couple of those "holy shit" moments. Pete's very conscious and we've been working on things for that purpose. Yeah, there's some cool beats. There's some cool beats. We did one the other day.
Any dwarf tossing like in the last trilogy?
Bloom: There's some fun other dwarf moments coming up. I don’t want to give too much away, but there will be some fun interaction. It is different though, because as it was pointed out earlier, the relationship — the friendship that grew out of the relationship between Legolas and Gimli grew over a three-movie period. I'm more seeing the dwarves as I would have seen them prior to going in to the Council of Elrond, which is full of disdain for what I, fundamentally as an Elf, believe their purpose is in life. There's not the same sort of thing, but there's definitely some jibes and moments that are good.
Can you talk about the dynamic a bit between your character and his father, and how much of that do we actually get to see?
Bloom: I can, somewhat reluctantly, because I think it's more interesting for people to see it. And when I say to you there is a certain rivalry — a prince versus a king, a father versus a son — there's definitely a bit of father-son rivalry, prince-king rivalry that forwards the story. I don't really want to elaborate on it more than that, but it makes for a more interesting dynamic, Thranduil being the king of the Woodland Realm and, as I've said, those Elves being more of a militant group of Elves. Knowing that Legolas goes on to be a bridge, like an architect for peace between the Elves and the rest of the world, you might be able to guess there might be a little bit of me trying to understand more of what the plight of the rest of the world is and therefore somewhat coming up against odds with my father.
And here's a brief comic addendum to the interviews, about our experience the following day: