Evangeline Lily shelves semi-retirement to be a 'Hobbit' elf

The Fresno BeeDecember 11, 2013 

Former "Lost" star Evangeline Lily plays the elf Tauriel in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."

WARNER BROS.

LOS ANGELES — Becoming part of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" put a lot of demands on Evangeline Lilly.

She came out of a self-imposed retirement to do the two years filming for the second part of the series, "The Desolation of Smaug," and the series finale, "There and Back Again." She spent weeks on weapons, fighting and dialogue training and hours in a makeup chair daily to give her the pointed-ears look she needed to play the warrior elf Tauriel.

None of that was as important as the one demand Lilly made before signing on to the movie.

"I agreed to the job under one condition. The condition was I would not be involved in a love triangle," Lilly says. "Any of you who are fans of 'Lost,' I have had it up to here with love triangles."

For those who didn't watch the ABC drama about the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island, Lilly's character was involved in a series-long complicated romance with the island's bad boy, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and angst-ridden leader, Jack (Matthew Fox).

Lilly was assured there would be a straight line elf-dwarf romance involving her character. But after filming of additional scenes started in 2012, the producers decided that there should be a triangle. When Lilly balked at the idea, screenwriter/co-producer Philippa Boyens pointed out that those pursuing her heart would be played by acting hunks Orlando Bloom and Aidan Turner.

Getting to the romantic part almost never happened because Jackson had a difficult time tracking down Lilly to talk about the role. After "Lost," Lilly decided to step away from acting to spend more time with her new son. She was so far off the grid, the only way Jackson was able to find her was through a friend of a friend.

"What's so strange about retiring at 30? I think that's most people's dream," Lilly says. "I had retired into a life of quiet motherhood and writing. I didn't plan on taking any more acting gigs. Because 'The Hobbit' was my favorite book as a little girl, I jumped at the opportunity."

Lilly did pause when she heard her character is the only one in the film that doesn't exist in the Tolkien book — and that the addition of the role would make fans hate her. It didn't take long to convince her it was a good character to play.

Though "Lost" presented plenty of physical challenges, nothing compared to the fighting Lilly has to do in the "Hobbit" movies.

She went through five types of training — weapons, stunt, movement, dialect and language — to be able to play Tauriel. And there were two types of weapons training so she could handle double daggers and a bow and arrow.

Lilly brought a little background to the archery elements of the character.

"Believe it or not, I used to teach archery to little kids at a kids camp when I was a teenager," Lilly says. "But I am not a good marksman."

Always the director, Jackson jumps in and tells Lilly that whenever she tells that story again, she should leave off the bad aim part.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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