Evangeline Lilly Talks the Origin of Her Character, Getting New Script Pages Daily, and More on the Set of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

     October 17, 2013

So no scenes with Gandalf at all?

LILLY: None. Again, I’ve had him over for dinner, but I’ve never done a scene with him!

You talked about acting, and you have to react to things that aren’t actually there. Is there a lot of previsualization that you can look at on a monitor and see what the scene is ultimately going to look like in a rough form?

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaugLILLY: Not when you first walk into the scene. It depends on the order of things. If you’re lucky enough to go last, do your coverage last, then yes, you’re probably going to have somebody else’s coverage to watch, who’s acted opposite a green tennis ball or something, and suffered through that.

So you guys shoot those scenes at the exact same time?

LILLY: Exactly. They go, “Action!” They’re coordinating crews, and on two different stages, they’re calling out “action”, we’re moving at the same time, the cameras move together, so we have to play– We sort of dance without having the dance partner there. And we’ll do that with scenes that have six-seven-eight characters, and so, it’s crazy. ‘Cause I’m on one stage with the children, and then the dwarves are all on another stage, and we’re all moving in a room together. And you have to know that there’s four people who are moving in that room that you’re not allowed to walk right through, or it’s going to look like ghosts. You have to make sure you move around them and not through them.

Are there marks on the ground that tell you where…?

LILLY: Yeah, there’s marks on the ground, and sometimes you might have a stick with a tennis ball, or something to indicate– Like if somebody’s stationary, there will be something there to indicate, “Okay, here’s that dwarf. And don’t forget they’re wide, so don’t get too close to the stick.” And it’s a challenge, man! It’s hard.

Do you have an earpiece or something for audio?

LILLY: Yeah. We’re all wearing earpieces.

How do you tell which one gets the green screen stage and which one gets the…?

peter-jackson-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaugLILLY: It depends on what stage has been built. If the stage has been built for the big scale, then I’ll be on the set and they’ll be on the green screen. And if the stage has been built for the small scale, I’ll be on the green screen and they’ll be on the set. And everyone, of course, remembers the opening moment from The Hobbit, where Bilbo meets all the dwarves at Bag End. They all come knocking on his door: slave mocon. So there’s fourteen dwarves, Gandalf and Bilbo. And this is chaos, it’s mayhem. They’re throwing plates, they’re throwing cutlery, they’re doing all this stuff, and poor Ian McKellen– How old is he now? He’s like eighty! And he’s on this set going (makes weary noise) and there’s nothing around him and he’s talking to like seventeen– And it looks like he’s lost his mind. And then he sits around a table like this, ’cause this is what Bag End looks like in the end, they end up sitting around a table eating together. And there’s different colored spots on the tennis balls, so that it helps him remember which one’s Oin, which one’s Gloin, which one’s Fili, which one’s Kili, which one’s Bombur, which one’s Bofur. And he’s got to keep it all straight in his head and there’s no one there! It’s amazing.

So do you end up doing action scenes that way, too?

LILLY: Generally, the action scenes get shot separate. Because action scenes for the most part, play either with scales, with our doubles which would be– We have small people who play the scale double for the dwarves. They’ll fight for the dwarves, and then my stunt double will fight for me for the wide shots. And then once we get in close for coverage, you don’t see anyone else anyway, so there might be a stunt double in the background of my shot that’s just a blur, but it’s me doing it. So we don’t really have to do that for the action scenes. But the scene I’m talking about where he’s grabbing for my knives– That looked a bit suggestive. Knives!– is the scene where I’ve just finished slaughtering, like, five different spiders. And he’s there, and I clock him, but we don’t actually have to fight together.

Have you seen any of the footage in forty-eight frames per second, the way that Peter’s shooting it? Have you gotten a chance to check that out?

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaugLILLY: I think that I probably saw what was raw footage of that when I first arrived, ’cause I got this screening where they were showing us what they’ve done up to now. ‘Cause it’s such a long shoot, they’re trying to keep morale up. ‘Cause you can’t just keep shooting indefinitely without seeing something. You start to lose enthusiasm, I think. And there was something strange about what I was watching, ’cause I actually remember having a small panic attack, thinking, “Oh, my God, this isn’t working. Something’s not working.” ‘Cause it was really weird, it looked weird. And then I talked to people who have actually been doing their ADR, their additional dialogue recording, so that means they’re seeing a much more polished piece, where they’ve put all the CGI in, they’ve finished everything and now we just talk over that. And everyone’s saying, “It looks amazing.” But without the finishing touches, just that raw footage at forty-eight frames– I think ’cause we’re not used to seeing it that way, it was very jarring for me. I didn’t like it. But I think that that’s because it needs all the finessing that he puts into his films. Post-production is pretty much as important and as long as our actual production time.

There’s a lot of singing in the book. Does that carry on to the movie, and do you get to partake?

LILLY: No, I don’t get to partake. (whispering) Thank God! (normal) You don’t want to hear me sing. But I do know that the Dwarves have done some singing. And they actually all did their own singing, and it’s amazing. So when you see– There’s a scene in Bag End where the Dwarves sing this haunting song, it’s all the actors. Nobody’s been dubbed over, and it’s beautiful. It gives you shivers.

What was your reaction to the trailer? ‘Cause obviously you’ve seen some footage, but the trailer’s the first time they really released any real footage. What was your reaction to watching it?

LILLY: I just wanted more. I just felt like, “Argh! That’s just a tease”, like I didn’t get any– I think we get a bit spoiled with trailers nowadays, ’cause you can watch the trailer three times and you’ve seen the movie. Nowadays they don’t really keep anything hidden. And I love that they did keep a lot hidden, because I don’t like that about trailers. But I think because of that I was like, “I didn’t– But I want to see it all, I want to see everything!” And just that little bit was not enough to get a gauge on the film at all, I don’t think.

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-posterSo many of these people worked with Peter, much of the crew and some of the actors. Did it take you long to feel part of the family, being one of the new cast members coming in?

LILLY: No, definitely not. The Kiwi crew are really, really easy, and there’s just an immediate rapport. As a Canadian, I felt like that was something that carried over for me, and I thought was really nice. One of the things that I miss about Canada is that even the strangers, you have an immediate rapport, there’s just an understanding that we’re all good people, let’s be nice to each other. And Kiwis have that. I find the Kiwis have that. And then Peter is so easy and relaxed, and really funny. He’s surprisingly funny. He has a really good vibe on set. There’s no sense at all, at least I don’t get the sense at all, that he has an ego about what he’s doing, or an arrogance about that being his film set. I think he gets really excited about the characters, and because he’s so excited about the characters, it means he’s excited about you, which is a really nice thing to walk into. And then I arrived a year after the dwarves had been busy at work. And the Dwarves are all new to the set. 

So I think because they all came into the Rings world brand new there’s sort of like, new kids stick together, new kids take care of each other. And I think they all took me under their wing very easily and quickly, and I think they maybe know what it feels like to be the new kid on the block. I actually have a really strong rapport with most of the dwarves. We’re all really good friends, and I think they were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and it was all very easy. Even Orlando, he’s the veteran, and he’s this huge movie star who made his mark in these movies, who people will remember forever from Lord of The Rings. You never felt like he was like, “Well, you’re on my set. You’re in my world now.” He’s really welcoming and sweet, and open and warm. In the most amazing role reversal, he almost came in and you could tell that because he was coming into this new group– He used to have his old group with Rings. Maybe he was a bit nervous, like, “Is it going to work, and are we all going to be friends like we had on Rings?” And you could see that he really wanted to connect to people. Out of anybody, maybe you’d expect that he might have been a snob about it all, and he’s the opposite. So it has just been great.

So it’s [pronounced] “Smoog”?

LILLY: So, in Elvish, you pronounce every letter. You never draw letters together, you pronounce every letter. So if there was two ‘N’s, you would have to pronounce both of the ‘N’s, even if they’re right together. So that’s why it’s not ‘Smaug’, because that would be English. It’s “Sma-oog”. All right, that’s my Elvish lesson for the day, thank you! Thanks, guys.

Here is more from my Hobbit set visit:


  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    Great interview! I’m looking forward to seeing her character in action. Ever since my earliest days of D&D all my characters have been wood elves. Even in Skyrim I can’t help but be a wood elf – and my interest in them stems directly from The Hobbit and how magical and mysterious they were.

    I’m surprised there’s no singing in Desolation – the wood elves were singing and dancing in the woods in The Hobbit, if I remember correctly.

  • The Flobbit

    OK, she’s surprisingly smart. I had reservations about Tauriel, but they are dwindling fast. I greatly look forward to DoS, where Cumberbatch will chew up the scenery with teeth like razors and claws like meat hooks.

  • Seanpb

    I’ve doubts she’s was a “die hard fan of the books.”

    But of course she was, she needs to win over skeptical fans.

    • Nerdgasm

      Why does everyone in this day and age think people are lying? Why would you say she isn’t? You realize that The Hobbit is required reading in many of the school districts through out the U.S and Canada and from I have read also in Europe? Can a female not like a book that many believe are more for males? Or is it because she’s a pretty “Actor” and you think she isn’t very smart? You are a real piece of work and an idiot.

      • Seanpb

        Wow, you sure showed me.

        Although, in interpreting my post you took as much license as Jackson and co. when adapting Tolkien’s work.

        Now far be it from me to compare myself to Tolkien, especially with such a small sample to validate the comparison, but at no point did I say she can’t have read or enjoyed The Hobbit because she’s a female. Nor did I say or infer she wasn’t intelligent. One thing is for certain however: she is pant-bulgingly beautiful.

        I genuinely mean that. The more I look at her the more I’m convinced she’s actually too good looking. To boot, whenever I’ve seen her interviewed she’s at once funny, charming, energetic and smart.

        As for me embedding some subtext in there that she’s not intelligent, my opinion finds itself rooted to quite the contrary, actually. In identifying familiarity with and love of the text as a potentially favourable trait to have she has recognised her character is one that could rankle many die hards. These people will have seen and read about the character and questioned its place in the story. It wasn’t there before. It wasn’t necessary for Tolkien, why is it in the film?

        She has endeavoured to position herself as a sort of authority by saying she’s a fan and the intention, I believe, is so people regard her opinion – as a fan of the text, remember – as one worth listening to. ‘I was sceptical when I heard, but I’ve been won over. I was one of you who were worried how she’d fit in, but it’s worked well’

        It’s common and effective media/message manipulation. Good on her for trying, I’m sure she’ll be just fine in the role and don’t begrudge the character being in the film… I just doubt she, as well as everyone else who takes on a film property based on an existing media text, is a common nerd (excuse the term, I mean it lovingly) living the dream on the set of a film/comic/book they’ve loved forever.

  • Sup

    Wait, she’s lesbian? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just didn’t know.

    • Alkjeks

      I’ll guess it’s a typo. Her wikipedia page says she had a son with her hawaiian boyfriend.

      • Nerdgasm

        how is it a typo? It is very common for females to call their friends and best friends “Girlfriends” in reference to them being very close. It is not common for guys to say “Hey I am haingout with my boyfriends” we have other names for obvious reasons. it isn’t a typo I am guessing she has a friend who is female who is visiting from hawaii.

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