When we think of elves at this time of year visions of Santa’s helpers fill our heads.
The cute, industrious and diminutive creatures from the North Pole can be seen everywhere in December in Christmas TV specials, greeting cards and movies like Arthur Christmas and Santa Claus: The Movie.
One of the most famous movie elves is Buddy, played by Will Ferrell in the neo-classic Elf.
“You’re not an elf,” says Leon the Snowman. “You’re six-foot-three and had a beard since you were fifteen.”
So technically he’s not really an elf, just a human raised by elves but he has more Christmas spirit than Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen put together.
This weekend, just weeks before December 25, Buddy is joined on the big screen by a very different kind of elf.
“She’s slightly reckless and totally ruthless and doesn’t hesitate to kill.” That’s how Evangeline Lilly describes the 600-year-old “she-elf” Tauriel from this weekend’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The bow-and-arrow wielding character is new to the J.R.R. Tolkien movie franchise, created by director Peter Jackson and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
“She’s our redhead,” says Boyens. “We created her for that reason. To bring that energy into the film, that feminine energy. We believe it’s completely within the spirit of Tolkien.”
Buddy and Tauriel are just two of the many kinds of movie elves.
Elves, or (Gelfling as they’re called in the flick), are the main focus of the Jim Henson film The Dark Crystal.
Dobby the House Elf was voted the No. 1 favourite magical creature in the Harry Potter series by NextMovie.com and Thor: The Dark World featured Dark Elves, an ancient race of dangerous beings whose spaceships are powered by black holes.
The cheeseball b-movie Elves features the tagline, “They’re Not Working for Santa Anymore.” Well, if not Santa, then who? Nazis, that’s who.
Finally Tom Cruise consorted with an elf named Honeythorn Gump in Legend, the Ridley Scott film The New York Times called “a slap-dash amalgam of Old Testament, King Arthur, The Lord of the Rings and any number of comic books.”
Swiss actor David Bennett played the feisty elfin sidekick who not only is the protector of the world’s last two unicorns but, along with elves Screwball, Brown Tom and Oona, helps Cruise’s character save the world from the nasty Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry).
The show Lost propelled Evangeline Lilly from unknown model to television star.
For six seasons she played Kate Austen on the hit series, earned a Golden Globe nomination, numerous Sexiest Women in the World titles and became the face of L’Oreal Paris.
But the trappings of fame didn’t sit well with the Alberta-born actress. “I’m a small town Canadian girl,” she says. “It just doesn’t jive with me.”
So instead of looking for the next big thing following Lost’s 2010 finale, she took a step back.
“My resolve to retire came when I realized it was actually the job itself that was killing me. I’m a very undramatic woman. I keep my life very simple. I don’t have a lot of emotional energy to spend. I don’t argue with my spouse. I don’t make drama where there doesn’t need to be any. I don’t have girlfriends who are dramatic. I just can’t stomach it.
“Having a job that required that I be at the height of drama emotionally for 14 hours a day, all day, every week for six years running was doing bad things to my health, to my psyche. I wasn’t in a good place. I really believe if you’re not happy, get out. It doesn’t matter how much someone is paying you or how famous you’ve become, it’s not worth it if you’re not happy and you’re not healthy.”
It took Peter Jackson and a plum role in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to bring her out of self-imposed seclusion.
“When they asked me I was three months out of giving birth to my first son,” she says. “I thought I had retired to a life of writing and motherhood. I thought I was done with acting. And then he called. I thought, ‘This is too huge of an honour. I can’t say no to this. This is something I had dreamed about since I was a little girl,’ so I took the job.”
In the action-adventure she plays Tauriel, a 600-year-old wood elf created specially for the film. She says the character is “driven by her desire to help the vulnerable and the weak.”
We’ll see her again as Tauriel next year in The Hobbit: There and Back Again and after that, who knows, although she says, shooting The Desolation of Smaug in New Zealand was “such a positive experience that it has actually changed my mind about my profession.”
On powerful females
Evangeline Lilly likes the soft side of her current role. “One of the things I struggle with, with powerful female roles in the media right now, is that often they are associated with male violence. If a woman can kill and slaughter like a man then suddenly she’s a powerful woman, which I actually think diminishes her power. I don’t think that makes them powerful. I like that this character is a softhearted compassionate elf driven out of her need for justice and her seeking of the truth. I think that is more a distinct female power. I think in the past vulnerability and compassion have been associated with weakness and I think they give a woman her power.”