Source: USA TODAY
Evangeline Lilly’s 2-year-old son will probably wind up a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic children’s book The Hobbit just like her and the actress’ dad.
“He handed off his copy of the book to me and I got really into them,” Lilly says of sharing her father’s love for Tolkien tomes. “I was the only one of me and my sisters really when we were younger who got into them but then eventually everyone came into the fray once Peter made the films.”
Peter, of course, is Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who first wowed audiences with his Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and returned to Middle-earth for a trio of movies based on The Hobbit.
The elf Tauriel doesn’t appear in the prose but she comes alive on screen in the second film The Desolation of Smaug courtesy of Lilly, who is best known as Kate Austen on TV’s Lost. Kate never had to fight so many orcs alongside Sawyer and Jack Shephard as Tauriel does because of her deep connection to Legolas (Orlando Bloom) while also being attracted to the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner).
Lilly, 34, talks with USA TODAY about working with Bloom and Jackson, what’s next for Tauriel and her own foray into kids’ books, The Squickerwonkers.
Q. Tauriel wasn’t in the original Tolkien book, so what character really spoke to you the most when you read The Hobbit as a little girl?
A. This is going to sound like I’m making it up but, swear to God, the Silvan elves were the most enchanting thing about the book as a little girl. I loved the idea of the Silvan elves and I think that it’s interesting as a little girl, I grabbed onto the only part of the story that had any kind of female energy.
We all love the idea of James Bond and superheroes, and in Middle-earth the elves are close. Ultimately what is unique about these different species is they have powers that are beyond human power.
Hobbits are able to be stealthy, like ninjas. Dwarves are just essentially hearty, stout human beings. For a human audience, seeing things that are slightly more otherworldly and beyond human power is always really fun and exciting to watch.
Q. You started work on The Hobbit three months after giving birth, but Tauriel is doing some crazy stuff in action scenes. How much of that is you?
A. The bulk of it is me, and the moments where they pan out really wide and suddenly Tauriel’s doing something really inhuman, that’s when you realize that’s gotta be a digi-double.
I gotta say, Legolas is still the king of those crazy amazing elven moments, and I love that moment on the river when he’s dancing on the dwarves’ heads.
Q. With Orlando returning to the role he made famous in Lord of the Rings, was he a help in getting accustomed to this cinematic fantasy world?
A. He was definitely helpful in me understanding Peter Jackson’s mind-set. Peter Jackson works like a mad genius and he’s one of those crazy, chaotic genius people.
I’m a bit of a structured person, and there were moments where I would just be like, “What the (expletive) is going on? I’m so lost and so scared,” and Orlando would just put my fears at ease and say, “Don’t worry, he was like this on Rings, it’s all going to turn out alright, he knows what he’s doing.”
Q. When your son is old enough, will he be watching Hobbit movies before binge-watching Lost?
A. Oh yeah, I think so. I think of the Hobbit films as being films for the family. When I was on Lost I used to have families who would come up to me and they would push their little 5-year-old forward and go, “Go say hi!” They would say, “She’s such a big of you and Lost,” and I would scold the parents. I’d tell them, “She’s 5 years old, she shouldn’t be watching my show! It’s very mature content in that show!” (Laughs)
Whereas I feel like if a 5-year-old has the stomach to not be too scared by spiders and dragons, then The Hobbit is a great movie for little kids.
Q. How much of your children’s book The Squickerwonkers was inspired by reading Tolkien and other fantasy in your early years?
A. The bulk of the inspiration when I originally wrote it was probably Dr. Seuss. I was really obsessed at the time and I wasn’t necessarily wanting to write a Dr. Seuss book, but I was in admiration of the fact that he had this fearlessness about creating things that didn’t exist. The Squickerwonkers world, it doesn’t exist. Those characters don’t exist. That family is sort of a strange and magical anomaly. That was definitely a big inspiration for me.
I also was a big fan of Labyrinth and it has that strange and creepy darkness that comes along with some of those types of films. I ended up watching The Dark Crystal after I had written The Squickerwonkers originally. All those dark fantasy films for children ended up having an influence.
Also, Tim Burton and his Nightmare Before Christmas. When that came out, I wasn’t sure what to expect or if I would be opposed to them because I thought, “Well, I don’t know just how scary I want kid stuff to be.” But watching it, I think I had connected to something that I had forgotten about: how much children love to be scared and how much children love the darker side of life. They’re less ideologically opposed to it than adults because they haven’t sorted out their ideology yet.
Q. I grew up on Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. They didn’t freak me out but I did get the sense of some serious darkness, at least for the time. But as your son grows up, he’ll probably find those extremely innocuous.
A. I feel like there was a shift that happened at some point — and I don’t know when it happened — where we started sanitizing kids material.
If you go back to, say, the Brothers Grimm or Roald Dahl, you see so much darkness in children’s material. Nowadays I feel like it’s a lot of Barney-esque stories and television shows and movies where everything’s really sanitized. I feel like I missed the darker side of childhood, and I think that’s why I really enjoy Tim Burton so much.
As an adult when I look at children’s material, I feel there’s something missing, and I know Johnny Fraser-Allen, my illustrator, feels the same way. We want to get in bed with the people who are creating more subversive childhood material.
Q. The Hobbit: There and Back Again is in theaters a year from now. Will Tauriel play as much of a role in the third film as she does this second one?
A. It’s more of the same. There’s a lot of beautiful little heroic moments for Tauriel in the third film and the little bit of simmering romantic stuff that was going on in the second one comes to a head and becomes more prominent in the third film.
This third film is, from what I know of the story and the script, is where Tauriel really gets to shine.
Q. It’s interesting to go into a Hobbit movie and watch a love triangle unfold.
A. (Laughs) It’s funny because when I took the job — and this is not a made-up story, it’s a true story — the one stipulation I made was you have to promise me I will not be involved in a love triangle. And it wasn’t in the original iteration.
It wasn’t until I came back for reshoots in 2012 that they had rewritten scenes and added scenes, and suddenly I was in a love triangle. I was shaking my head. I couldn’t believe it had turned out that way. The one thing I didn’t want to do.
Q. Then they had you hooked. You couldn’t say no at that point.
A. Exactly! I was like, I can’t back out now. We’ve been working on this thing for years!
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