Even the smartest Tolkien fan would be hard pressed to find Evangeline Lilly’s Hobbit character Tauriel in Middle Earth canon.
That’s because she’s brand new.
Peter Jackson and his team made a rare decision for the franchise when they created a female elf named Tauriel for The Hobbit series, whose second film The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters this Friday.
At a press event attended by Hypable, producer and co-writer Philippa Boyens said that the decision to create Tauriel came from the “lack” of female characters in The Hobbit. “Professor Tolkien actually wrote fantastic female characters, he just didn’t write one for The Hobbit,” she says.
Lilly, a Tolkien fan herself (“She’s not joking, she’s a huge fan,” Boyens told us), agreed with the need for a female role. “In Tolkien’s defense, he 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 the theaters for young girls to go and watch, and not have one female character, is subliminally telling them, ‘You don’t count, you’re not important, and you’re not pivotal to story.'”
She feels Jackson and company made a smart decision. “I just think they were very brave and very right in saying we won’t do that to the young female audience. And not just the young female audience, but even a woman my own age, I think it’s time we stop making stories that are only about men, especially only about heroic men. I love that they made Tauriel a hero.”
Although producers knew Lilly was a big fan of Middle Earth, they ran into a problem when they broke the news to her that they were creating a new character for her to portray.
“Because The Hobbit was my favorite book as a little girl, and the Silvan Elves were my favorite characters in the book, it would be a dream come true to play one, I agreed very quickly. And then they said to me, ‘Your character’s not in the book.’ And I took great pause as a great fan of Tolkien. I kind of gulped and went, ‘Whaaaat? Everyone’s going to hate me.'”
After Jackson and producers spoke to her about the need for a female lead, she was willing to agree but had one rule she needed them to commit to. “At that moment when [Boyens] said there was a love story, I agreed to the job under one condition. One condition. And they agreed to the condition, and it was in place for two years. The condition was: I will not be involved in a love triangle. (“It’s true,” Boyens confirms). Because any of you who are fans of Lost — I had it up to here with love triangles.”
“And sure enough, I come back for reshoots in 2012 and they go, ‘We’ve made a few adjustments to the love story.'”
The romantic plot line was developed after adding a third film to The Hobbit series. Plans originally called for two movies, but in July 2012 Jackson announced a third.
“That was a whoops moment,” Boyens admits of going back on their promise to Lilly. “But that was genuine – it wasn’t a triangle. What happened was, we saw it playing [on screen] – and that first look between Kili and Legolas, you know they have a kind of exchange of looks. It was so perfect that we were like -”
“We gotta go there,” Lilly replies.
Boyens argues that Legolas’ interest in Tauriel – and competing with Kili for her heart – aids a storyline in The Lord of the Rings. “It was interesting with Legolas because one of the things we were trying to do was… he hates dwarves in The Fellowship of the Ring. This is animosity that had to have come from somewhere. What was it about? We wanted to make it a little more emotion than just, ‘I don’t like them.'”
“And that played well,” Lilly admits.